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Saturday, 20 December 2008

From Today's Papers - 20 Dec

We are obliged to consider full range of options: Pranab

Gangtok, December 19
India today said it was obliged to “consider the entire range of options that exist” with the failure of Pakistan to deliver on its promise of not supporting terror activities.

“Terrorism remains a scourge for our region. If a country cannot keep the assurances that it has given, then it obliges us to consider the entire range of options that exist to protect our interests and people from this menace,” external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said, without naming Islamabad.

“We have made repeated appeals to our neighbours over the years to ensure that they do not provide support to terrorist activities and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure... but our pleas have been ignored in spite of assurances given by them,” Mukherjee said.

He said this in his message from New Delhi to the International Conference on ‘Sub-regionalism Approach to Regional Integration in South Asia: Prospects and Opportunities’ here. It was read out by the Sikkim University vice-chancellor Mahendra P Lama at the inauguration of the three-day event. He said the terror attacks on the financial capital of the country reflected the extent to which the terrorists have spread their network in the neighbouring country.

The minister, however, did not elaborate on the course of action to be taken by the government following Pakistan's failure to act on its assurance of dismantling terror infrastructure on its territory. He also hinted that the state agencies of Pakistan may have provided assistance to the terrorists, whom he described as non-state actors, in carrying out the attack. — PTI

NSG hubs in 4 metropolis

Mumbai, December 19
Decks have been cleared for setting up four (National Security Guard) NSG hubs in key metropolis, including commercial capital Mumbai and IT city Bangalore, to help mobilise commandos quickly during any crisis situations.

"Various steps have been initiated to remove logistical weaknesses in mobilising and deploying NSG and a decision has been taken to locate NSG units in hubs like Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata," the centre informed Bombay High Court in an affidavit today.

The union government and the Maharashtra government outlined the measures taken by them in reply to PILs by Society of Indian Law Firms and others in the backdrop of the Mumbai terror attacks.

Questions were raised on the delay in the arrival of NSG commandos in Mumbai from Delhi on the night of November 26 when the city was struck by terrorists.

They said a multi-pronged strategy to deal with terrorism was being followed and various measures to prevent and effectively combat terror acts were being taken.

The affidavit filed by the union government stated that the measures include setting up of (NSG) units in regional hubs, implementation of the ‘Coastal Security Scheme’ to ensure coastal security and setting up of marine commando unit at each port along with bomb detection and disposal squad. — PTI

Pakistan Becoming Failed State: Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif, chief of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), has said the entire system of the country seems to be collapsing and slammed the government for presenting a picture of a "failed state" in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

The former prime minister strongly criticized the government led by President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for the flip-flops in its statements following the Mumbai attacks and challenged Zardari's assertion that there was no proof that the Mumbai attackers belonged to Pakistan.

Sharif, who belongs to Pakistan's Punjab province, said the village of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested in Mumbai, was cordoned off and his parents were not allowed to meet anyone.

"I have checked myself. His (Ajmal Kasab) house and village has been cordoned off by the security agencies. His parents are not allowed to meet anybody. I don't understand why it has been done," Sharif said in an exclusive interview to Geo TV Thursday night.

He called for allowing people and media to meet Imran's parents so that the truth will come out. "We need some kind of introspection," he added.

The former prime minister said the entire system of the country had failed, that it was becoming a failed state, and called for adopting a fresh road map with renewed commitment in order to save it.

"I don't want to create problems for the government …. the country could destabilize if a movement is carried out on streets," Sharif said.

Stressing that he was not after the post of president, Sharif said: "We still want this government to complete its five-year term… I don't want the position of President Asif Ali Zardari".

The PML-N chief also called on the people to come forward and play their role towards saving this country, which is heading towards nowhere.

Expressing his anger with Zardari for breaching his promises on reinstating judges sacked by Musharraf, Sharif said: "To Asif Ali Zardari promises are meant to be broken but to us promises are always meant to be fulfilled".

He called on the PPP to recognise the will of its former leader Benazir Bhutto regarding the Charter of Democracy and demanded the government keep its promises regarding the 17th amendment of the constitution, allowing the judiciary to function independently.

India obliged to consider entire range of options: Pranab

Press Trust of India

Friday, December 19, 2008 7:02 PM (Gangtok)

India on Friday said it was obliged to "consider the entire range of options that exist" with the
failure of Pakistan to deliver on its promise of not supporting terror activities.

"Terrorism remains a scourge for our region. If a country cannot keep the assurances that it has given, then it obliges us to consider the entire range of options that exist to protect our interests and people from this menace," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, without naming Islamabad.

"We have made repeated appeals to our neighbours over the years to ensure that they do not provide support to terrorist activities and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure...but our pleas have been ignored in spite of assurances given by them," Mukherjee said.

He said this in his message from New Delhi to the International Conference on 'Sub-regionalism Approach to Regional Integration in South Asia: Prospects and Opportunities' in Gangtok.

It was read out by the Sikkim University Vice-Chancellor Prof Mahendra P Lama at the inauguration of the three-day conference.

Mukherjee said the terror attacks on the financial capital of the country reflected the extent to which the terrorists have spread their network in the neighbouring country.

The External Affairs Minister, however, did not elaborate on the course of action to be taken by the government following Pakistan's failure to act on its assurance of dismantling terror infrastructure on its territory.

He also hinted that the state agencies of Pakistan may have provided assistance to the terrorists, whom he described as non-state actors, in carrying out the attack.

"The Mumbai terrorist attack is the latest instance of how sub-regionalism, regionalism and multilaterism are directly threatened by non-state actors with the aid of para-state apparatus," Mukherjee said.

He said that India would fine-tune its priorities to deal with terrorism.

Referring to India's assessment of political situation in Pakistan, Mukherjee noted that the internal security of that country continued to deteriorate "leading to emergence of multiple centres of power".

The emergence of multiple centres of power has been reflected in attempts at cross border infiltration as also the increase in ceasefire violations besides the appalling terrorist attacks in Mumbai recently, he said.

Suggestion to upgrade defence secretary's post immature:Antony

New Delhi, Dec 18 (PTI) Government has refused to upgrade the post of Defence Secretary up to the level of Cabinet Secretary or Services heads rejecting recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee on Defence.

Terming the recommendation as"premature", Defence Minister A K Antony in a written reply said:"With regard to question of upgrade of the post of Defence Secretary to the level of Cabinet Secretary or equivalent of the Chief of Service, it is reiterated that the recommendations may not be accepted at present as the same is premature at this stage."

The Committee had made the recommendation in its report on'review of implementation status of Group of Ministers report of reforming national security system in pursuance of Kargil review committee report.'

Upgrade of the Defence Secretary's post was suggested by the Committee to bring the rank on par with Services chiefs or the Cabinet Secretary to synergise the functioning of the armed forces and the Ministry and to promote efficient functioning of the Defence Ministry as a whole.

The Standing Committee on Defence in its report has asked the Government to explain the reasons behind terming its recommendation as"premature".

Terming the Defence Ministry's intent as one of"avoiding responsibilities", the Committee said the it seemed to be apathetic to the present situation of lack of coordination and synergy in the functional relationship between the Ministry and the Services.

Panel raps Defence Ministry over indigenisation claims

Press Trust of India

Saturday, December 20, 2008 (New Delhi)

A Parliamentary Committee has expressed displeasure over Defence Ministry's varied claims over the level of indigenisation achieved by defence production units.

In its report, the Standing Committee said one Ministry official claimed that the share of indigenously produced items in defence production was 77 per cent whereas the Defence Secretary claimed it to be only 30-35 per cent.

The Committee expressed its displeasure over the way the Ministry maintained the data about indigenisation and asked it to apply necessary corrective measures to ensure objective and incisive analysis of the situation.

The Parliamentary Committee on Defence in its report on 'Indigenisation of defence production- public-private partnership' sought to increase the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defence sector to 49 per cent from the present cap of 26 per cent.

This recommendation is in line with the long standing demand of the industry to hike the FDI limit.

On the issue of selection of Raksha Udyog Ratnas (RURs) among private sector companies for development and production of major weapon systems and platforms, the Committee expressed its displeasure over the manner in which the issue was allowed to linger on by the Ministry without any plausible explanation about it.

It urged the government to expedite selection of RURs to do away with the misgivings among defence industry.

The Committee asked the government to take concrete and result oriented steps to harness the potential of both public and private sector industries in defence to reduce the dependence on foreign countries for military requirements.

Mumbai attack and Pakistan
Warning to it shouldn’t be just a ritual
by Gen V. P. Malik (retd)

Two major issues have emerged after the latest, most audacious and daring terror attack in Mumbai on 26/11. These are (a) poor infrastructure and systemic failures in India’s ability to counter terror, and (b) how should India respond to repeated terror attacks originating from Pakistani soil.

The first issue, more important, requires professional advice and the political will to institute corrective measures. The failures are not because of non-availability of advice but due to vested interests, bureaucratic sloth and turf interests.

Unfortunately, the political leadership till now has used terrorism as a tool for electoral advantages rather than a serious national security challenge. Hopefully, the public anger reflected in “enough is enough” will make every one sit up now, and the government will do what should have been done a long time ago.

That the Mumbai attack originated from Pakistan is not in doubt. But blaming radical outfits like the LET and JEM only for this incident would not be correct. Their extensive and visible training, operational infrastructure, the sophisticated and meticulous planning and execution of attacks in Mumbai, Kabul and earlier, cannot happen unless there is official conspiracy or complicity in Pakistan.

It is a well-known fact that the Pakistan Army maintains its unholy alliance with Jehadi terror organisations through the ISI. A few months ago, General Musharraf called the ISI as Pakistan’s first line of defence. The Pakistan Army has refused to place the ISI under civilian controlled Interior Ministry, or to expose its head to foreign questioning, because the ISI is its non-transparent arm to implement military strategies and look after vested interests.

Ever since inception, the Pakistan Army has used terrorists as its extension. It used them against India in 1947-48 war, for Op Gibralter in 1965, in Punjab in mid 80s, and in J & K since 1989. It used them for Kargil war although the actual infiltration was carried out by the Northern Light Infantry and other regular Army units.

That is how mullah-military nexus and India-focused terror outfits — supported, autonomous, or viewed blindly — such as LET, JEM, HUM have flourished in Pakistan. Having failed to achieve success in conventional war against India, the ISI uses these outfits, and people like Dawood, to wage a proxy war of “thousand cuts”. Terror targets are carefully selected to cause insecurity and damage India’s image and economy.

Many Pakistani writers admit that the ISI often indulges in autonomous handling of foreign relations, toppling civil governments, rigging elections, even vigilantism, picking up people and making them disappear. Shuja Nawaz, in his book “Crossed Swords”, writes of a sworn affidavit filed by Pakistan’s Defence Secretary in a High Court stating that “his ministry had no operational control over the two rogue agencies (ISI and ISPR) and therefore was unable to enforce the court’s orders on either agency in matters relating to detentions.”

Any military and diplomatic options to stop cross-border terrorism should be considered in this full picture. India’s last military response to a major cross-border terror act was Op Parakaram. The military was deployed on the Western border for 10 long months. It was withdrawn after we extracted some half-hearted promises from Pakistan. These promises, later converted into “joint declaration” and many lip-serving confidence-building measures, have failed to check cross-border terrorism. The intensity and frequency of terror attacks has increased.

A military option, if adopted, should demonstrate India’s will and capability and hurt the intended targets without drawing India into a nuclear exchange or a costly ground war. The response must rise above the symbolic. In examining such military options, beside political and economic implications, we have to factor in the possible Pakistani military reaction, international support, and its impact on US, NATO and Pakistan military deployments on the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Other than a war, such military options could be (a) air strikes on militants’ camps (their precise coordinates must be known to achieve the desired results and minimise collateral damage) or strategic targets, along with/without commando raids on some military installations close to the border or LoC (b) capture one or two terrorists’ launch pads in Pakistani territory in a surprise attack to put political pressure (c) a naval blockade or action on the high seas. The last one would impact Pakistan’s economy as well as the logistic lifeline of the US and NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan. Strategic implications of such an action in Pakistan would be:

It will lead to withdrawal of one or two Pakistan Army corps from its Western border. There would be a Pakistani riposte for which our civil and military have to be prepared.

A close monitoring and political oversight will be required over the escalation ladder, which can move very fast. The government will need to manage the domestic and international opinion. It will require political will and political consensus, often seen lacking these days.

It will give further excuse to the jehadi groups and Pakistan Army to work jointly against “India’s hegemonic designs”.

During and after the military confrontation, if there is a standoff between the Pakistan Government and its Army, we know who will be shown the door. Such a limited confrontation, for which India has the capability, will certainly convey a strong warning to Pakistan. However, none of us can be certain that it will stop militants’ activities and cross-border terrorism.

Let us look at the diplomatic options. India has pro-actively engaged Pakistan on political, economic and security related issues, including cross-border terrorism. Direct bilateral discussions in Simla, Lahore, Agra, Islamabad; indirect discussion through the US and the UK; multi-lateral discussions in the UN and SAARC; hundreds of track 1 and 2 level dialogues have not convinced Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism or to take worthwhile action against jehadi outfits and their infrastructure.

Analysed more realistically and less emotionally, it is apparent to anyone that these engagements and strategic Indo-Pakistan hyphenation benefit Pakistan more than India. We lose the advantage of a secular democratic nation, seven times economically stronger, progressive nation. On cross-border terrorism, our pro-active engagements with all types of governments in Pakistan have got us only denials, double speak, false promise, back-stabbing, and made us more vulnerable. Terrorism from Pakistani soil has increased, not decreased.

In dealing with Pakistan on cross-border terrorism, diplomatic options would definitely be preferable to any military option. The latter should be the last resort. Long ago, I had stated that a proxy war on the sub-continent can easily lead to a conventional war. In the current security environment, caused by the continuing terror war, our forces should remain alert for protective as well as pro-active responses. We should also remember Kofi Annan’s advice, “You can do a lot with diplomacy but of course you can do a lot more with firmness and force.”

The writer, former Chief of Army Staff, is President, ORF Institute of Security Studies, New Delhi.

Pakistan's Anti-terror Offensive Assists Afghan War Aims, Gates Says

Story by Gerry Gilmore
Posted on 12.19.2008 at 02:17PM

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Renewed Pakistani military action targeting al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists lodged in the western part of their country benefits Pakistan and assists in the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a Public Broadcasting Service interview that aired Dec. 17.

A U.S. government review of the strategy and tactics employed in Afghanistan recognizes "the importance that Pakistan plays in success or failure in Afghanistan and the need for us to work closely with Pakistan and to view Afghanistan more in a regional context than in isolation," Gates told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose.

The former Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, ultimately failed to dissuade citizens living in ungoverned areas of western Pakistan from allowing al-Qaida and Taliban militants to cross the border into Afghanistan to launch attacks on U.S., coalition and Afghan security forces. Musharraf resigned Aug. 18.

Meanwhile, the Taliban stepped up their operations in Afghanistan. A new government replaced the one headed by Musharraf, but Pakistani military efforts against militants operating in their country remained uneven, until recently.

The Pakistanis "withdrew from the fight earlier this year, which frankly, gives the Taliban an opportunity to surge into Afghanistan," Gates said.

But, "now the Pakistanis are back in the fight," Gates said. This development, he said, is causing Taliban and al-Qaida members operating in the border region "to watch their backs."

Pakistani forces also are working hard, Gates said, to safeguard the truck convoys that carry military supplies from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Most people don't know that the Pakistanis "have lost several thousand men; soldiers killed in this struggle in the western part of Pakistan," Gates said. "They have been in the fight."

Militants in Pakistan have been implicated in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. This revelation, Gates said, is likely giving the Pakistani government some food for thought as it considers how it should deal with terrorists operating on their soil.

"I think they're beginning to understand that the extremists in ungoverned spaces in their west have become an existential threat to Pakistan," Gates said, "And, I think that's one of the reasons the army is back in the fight, and one of the reasons why I hope that we will be able to work closer together in the future."

Through it all, Pakistan remains a valued friend and ally of the United States, Gates pointed out.

"They have captured and killed more al-Qaida than anybody in the world, except maybe us," Gates said of Pakistan's contributions in support of the war against global terrorism.

Looking ahead, the United States "will clearly be looking for ways to have a stronger partnership with Pakistan," Gates said, "to see if we can help them with some of their economic problems, and at the same time, encourage them to take [more] action in these ungoverned spaces in western Pakistan where the Taliban and al-Qaida and some of these other violent extremists have found sanctuary."

Turn the tables on the Taliban

December 20, 2008


Afghanistan is not going well. Events are not yet catastrophic but if the situation doesn't change we'll probably lose the war. The Taliban and al-Qaeda, and not the Afghan people, will control the country.

The insurgency is at least as difficult as that in Iraq. It is complex ethnically, religiously and tribally, the country is poorer, the population less skilled, the border porous but violence is still far less than it was for most of the six years of Iraq's insurgency. Iraq exemplifies the possibility of success, the need to keep our nerve, the importance of endurance and the fact that severe downturns are war's norm.

Four lines of operations give structure to counter-insurgency - security, governance, development and information - and the situation is deteriorating in all.

Attacks on security forces, the people and NGOs, are increasing and there is a reliance on local militias or warlords. The Taliban and al-Qaeda have border sanctuary in Pakistan. There is a lack of unity of effort among the foreign security forces, which is grossly understrength and limited in effectiveness by the operational restrictions placed on elements by their own governments. Protection of the population and essential services is weak. The Afghan National Army is understrength and undeveloped. The Afghan National Police faces severe problems.

On governance, corruption, drugs, the economy, jobs and security are intimately linked. The Karzai Government may not be able to recover credibility but elections approach. A lack of internal resources and co-ordination impedes development and the international financial crisis won't help. Afghan economic weakness is compounded by lack of co-ordination of the little development aid on offer, by lack of security and by the likely high cost of development to potential donors.

In terms of information, the perceptions of Afghans are shaped by poor government performance and weak security, which choke people's commitment to the counter insurgency. Foreign support for Afghanistan - high when little was happening - is being questioned. In exactly the same way the Howard government failed to bring the Australian people with it on Iraq, the Afghan situation is undersold by the Rudd Government. Our soldiers are almost over-supported but governments seem ashamed of their commitment, leaving the door open to foreign media networks and influence.

No conflict is as easy as Afghanistan appeared to be at the beginning. Wars must be learnt, and learnt by doing them. Positives in Afghanistan are few and far between.

We have denied Afghanistan as a base for international terrorism - the very rationale for our initial involvement - but the Taliban and al-Qaeda are proving resilient, despite attacks on their leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We know the tactics needed to defeat this insurgency but they are not universally applied, and effective technology is very expensive. Australian forces are performing well at the tactical level. The Afghan army is very slowly increasing in size and work has started on the police. Pakistan may be more active in countering Islamists on its side of the border.

Anti-drug policies are emerging but consistent execution and economic substitution is required. NATO nations are indicating some willingness for minor troop increases. US forces will increase by three combat brigades (about 10,000 troops) within a year and may, over the next two years, increase by perhaps 30,000 when support troops are included. There may still be greater increases from the US after 2011. Islamists know US success in Iraq stands as an example of American resolve. They cannot assume the US will not stay the course, even though the Obama administration is yet to indicate its real intent.

Just as they did in Iraq, myths divert discussion on countering the insurgency. We hear, for example, that "victory will not be achieved by military means alone". What military person of any credibility ever said it would? Another favourite is that this is a civil war, so foreigners shouldn't be involved. Another is that the removal of Western forces would remove the problem, as if the evils of the Taliban and al-Qaeda weren't evident before and as if our own forces are immoral.

And 130,000 Soviets and 300,000 armed Afghans couldn't do it, so how could we? There are no guarantees in war but the quality and experience of American troops are far superior, with greater knowledge of modern counter-insurgency. Our great weapons are our morality and openness to scrutiny.

Then there's the old line about Australia not having a strategic interest in Afghanistan, an interesting spin on the challenge of extreme Islam by a country living next to Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic country. The view is not just narrow-minded but a denial of humanitarianism and our responsibilities as a rich citizen.

The only course of action, argues another line, is to talk to the Taliban, or to launch a diplomatic offensive, or to change the nature of the government. There is no one solution; such insurgencies are amenable only to a comprehensive military and non-military strategy.

The claim that Western democracies are incapable of long-term commitments has some validity, but the US and a few of its allies stayed the course in Iraq, and that was as tough as it gets.

There's the argument the financial crisis now strips us of affordability. If nothing else, its enormity put the Iraq war cost into some perspective. If the issues are big enough, the costs of commitment can be met. As to the argument an Australian commitment would be too small to be meaningful, the US and Britain - the bulwarks of world security - are desperate for assistance. Australia can make a significant contribution and as a minimum should look to the Dutch and Canadians as a measure. The argument that we have already proved strategically successful because we went to Afghanistan is nothing but popular official self-delusion meant to reinforce a view that Australia has done enough. It confuses rhetoric with results.

Australian troops are fighting well at the tactical level. If nothing changes, they will continue to perform brilliantly until we lose the war - just as in Vietnam.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda strategy is well-known and defeatable. It is based on terror, aimed at the people and at foreign support, including NGOs, in contravention of every law of war. They will conduct operations over a long period. They will use terror while complaining to sympathetic elements of the media of the barbarity of the foreign troops' actions, especially one of our most effective weapons, aerial attacks. They will attack foreign forces' commitment and resolve. They will question the efficacy of foreign involvement, quoting the Russian and British failures. They will attack local forces to dissuade them from involvement. They will expand the conflict as much as possible to complicate the problem - drugs, Pakistan, Iran, Kashmir, India. They will fund their efforts from drug money, government corruption and crime. They will play on the shortcomings of the Karzai Government, which is no more incompetent or corrupt than any similar government. We should expect no more from an Afghani government for several elections to come.

Our strategies are confusing. NATO's is dominant but America's has best potential. Foreign security forces (including Australia) have a declared strategy to win but resources do not reflect this. The most important resources are time (reflecting commitment) and the instruments of counter-insurgency (military, non-military, aid, philosophy, commitment, information and morality).

There can be no certainty. Resource commitment in such foreign interventions is about probability. More effective troops will help, because an appropriate level of commitment provides no guarantees but a winning chance.

History suggests 20 reliable soldiers or police are needed for every 1000 in population over about nine years. Iraq has 27 million people, Afghanistan 30 million. Iraq has more than 500,000 security forces and has up to 175,000 foreign troops; the Afghan National Army has 60,000 local troops, with plans to double that, few police and 60,000 foreign troops, many withheld from effective use. In Iraq, we are winning; in Afghanistan, we are not. The nearest there is to a single answer to this problem is population security, where the people are protected to the extent of some normality and the people trust and commit to the government and security forces and reject others. Economy, jobs, education and information are important but the main aid to population security in the early stages is security force numbers.

Insurgency is a struggle for the trust of the people. Insurgency is armed politics and all politics is local. A counter-insurgency campaign needs the right number of troops with the right attitudes and capabilities for the right length of time.

Based on years of study of counter-insurgencies and as a practitioner in Iraq, I think Afghanistan is winnable. War is not a science but more troops indicate resolve and give a greater chance of creating an advantage. More troops means you can exploit opportunity, such as Iraq's Sunni Awakening, but they must be effective troops.

We may be in a holding strategy until significant forces can be found. This is risky but may be inevitable. Our enemies in Afghanistan are unlikely to wait while we build troop numbers. But we must stay in the game to win. It will take years to build a marginally effective Afghan army and you need foreign troops to enable the Afghan security forces to develop. The strategy must be to hold until the US (or someone) musters enough troops and the Afghan army is broadly capable. In Afghanistan, it may take another three to five years.

Do not get sidetracked by talk of when we can withdraw our troops. If your strategy is defined by when you are going home, cut out the middle man and stay home. Win first, then go home. Several steps are needed. Unity of effort through unity of coalition command is difficult in any alliance, but doubly so with a NATO group on foreign soil where there's a perception that core interests are not threatened.

Foreign troops must be capable of and willing for offensive operations because wars are not won by protecting yourself. Troops must protect the population and essential services, such as power, education, food, jobs and transport.

This way, people get to see some reward for their suffering. And they must attack the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership, including across national borders, and protect the Afghan army and police, while these forces mature, and the government, judiciary and electoral processes.

Afghanistan's neighbours must be diplomatically engaged, as they were in the Balkans during the war in Bosnia, and the Taliban should be involved where possible, just as the Sunnis were in Iraq. Others can only be killed or captured. Once security is adequate, commence serious reconstruction and begin to move responsibility for security to the Afghans. This may be a process of trial and error.

Wield information as a weapon. People with no understanding of countering a violent insurgency will object to the concept of information as a weapon. They betray their naivety by assuming everything our enemies say is the truth because they are the underdog and everything the coalition says is lies. Our information must be truth.

Then, having done all the hard work, identifying and exploiting unpredictable opportunities is the key. There must be hope but it should not dominate strategy.

Australia's strategy will continue to be popularly expressed as troop numbers but leaders know that proportional non-military involvement is essential. Troop numbers are the first step in a comprehensive approach. If you do not have the troops to create security, you will never get to the hearts and minds of the people, and you will lose.

Australia may not be able to make a significant increase in the short term and Defence advice may not support an increase in troop numbers because of the way it looks at risk. Recent Australian deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are almost entirely political because they lack military logic. The Rudd Government is now identified with Afghanistan as much as the Howard government was identified with Iraq.

Australia must continue lobbying to get wider alliance troop commitment, using Australia's willingness to commit (if that eventuates) as leverage. In the short term, Australia should maintain its present level of 1100 troops. This is the minimum.

But if Government is to give itself real options, it must manage Defence to offer real options, and that is going to take hands-on actions by the minister. In the medium term, Government should have the option to deploy a joint combat group of up to 2000 capable personnel permitted to fight, and give itself the option of increasing its commitment up to 6000 by about 2011 - a big demand on a defence force curtailed in funding for 30 of the past 40 years and, consequently, risk-averse on big issues.

But at least the Government will have options. The politics would be difficult but they will be even more difficult when the war is being lost in the next few years.

And to not commit will reinforce the perceptions in our allies' minds from Iraq that we are less than reliable military partners. Although often denied, this is a strategic issue of some note.

The tipping point in Afghanistan will come, perhaps in the summer of 2011. Government cannot reasonably expect Defence to respond in the six months before a crisis in 2011. It must demand that Defence prepare now. If it does not demand options from Defence, the Defence answer will be the same as always - a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

Retired major general Jim Molan, a former Coalition commander of operations in Iraq, is the author of Running The War In Iraq, published by HarperCollins.

This story was found at:

Indian military tests Smerch MLRS

Army eyes UAV integration

By Aharon Etengoff in San Francisco @ Friday, December 19, 2008 11:02 AM

Indian defence scientists have successfully tested the Russian-manufactured Smerch (Tornado) Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

At least five tests, which gauged flight stability, accuracy and consistency, were held at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur.

"The Smerch can launch 12 rockets at a time," a defence scientist told Express Buzz. "It is able to fire single rockets or salvo from two to all 12 rockets. A full salvo lasts 38 seconds."

The scientist also explained that the MLRS was capable of launching surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles. "The system can be integrated with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to provide a new dimension to artillery defence system," he added.

According to Army Technology, the 9K58 Smerch 300mm MLRS was designed to defeat soft and hard-skinned targets, artillery and missile systems. The MLRS fires a 300mm 9M55K rocket with a solid propellant rocket motor capable of a 20-70km range.

The 9M55K rocket, which measures 7.5m in length and weighs over 800kg, can be fitted with a warhead containing 72 HE-FRAG (High-Explosive Fragmentation) submunitions. Alternatively, the rocket is capable of handling a HE-FRAG separable unitary warhead as well as five Bazalt MOTIV-3F anti-armour submunitions.

It should be noted that the Indian Army test-fired a modernised Smerch-M system in 2002, which featured an automatic rocket preparing and launching system, along with an increased projectile range of up to 90km.

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