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Friday, 9 January 2009

From Today's Papers - 09 Jan 09


Armed forces' suggestions sought on separate pay panel

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The armed forces were Wednesday asked for their suggestions on a

separate pay panel that the Prime Minister's Office has cleared for

them, an official said.

'The service headquarters have received a note from the defence ministry

seeking suggestions on how to go about constituting a separate pay panel

for the defence forces,' the official added, requesting anonymity.

The note was sent along with a letter from the PMO on the decision on a

separate pay commission for the armed forces to delink their salary

revision from other government employees.

While agreeing to give more pay to lieutenant-colonels in the Indian

Army and their equivalents in the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force,

the Prime Minister's Office Dec 31, 2008 sent a letter to the cabinet

secretary informing him about the decision on a separate pay commission

for the armed forces.

The government has also decided that lieutenant-colonels deployed on

'combat or ready-to-combat' duties in their parent service may be placed

in pay band four (Rs.37,400-67, 000) - one step higher than the Sixth Pay

Commission recommended in its report last year. Lieutenant-colonels on

deputation will get the scale when they return to their parent service.

The government has also decided to set up a high-powered committee to

resolve issues relating to command and control functions and the status

of the armed forces vis-?-vis the paramilitary and civilian government

employees.

However, the PMO letter is silent on one other issue: including officers

of the rank of lieutenant-general and equivalent in the Higher

Administrative Grade (HAG) Plus category that has been created in all

government departments except the armed forces.

Directors-general of police, whose rank is equivalent to that of a

lieutenant-general, have been placed in the HAG Plus category.

The report of the Sixth Pay Commission, headed by Justice (retd) B.N.

Srikrishna, was submitted to then finance minister P. Chidambaram March

24. Chidambaram is now the home minister, and Prime Minister Manmohan

Singh holds the finance portfolio.

Army Calls Off Poonch Operation after Eight Days

Jammu
The army late Thursday night called off its operation to flush out militants hiding in a dense forest area in the frontier Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir after eight days "due to tactical reasons".

A source in the army said there was a possibility of the terrorists having slipped away from the Mendhar forest area taking advantage of the rugged terrain and bad weather.

The source said no exchange of fire had taken place with the hiding terrorists Thursday though troops had been on alert.

The troops had busted three hideouts and all they found was edible oil, dal, rice and gas cylinders. "All the caves where the militants were hiding had two openings," the source said.

The operation in Poonch had started Jan 1 when terrorists killed two army men - a junior commissioned officer and a soldier - while they were laying a cordon.

The militants had taken away the rifle of the JCO, whose body was found two days later.

The army said four militants were also killed in the operation and one security personnel.

NSCN abducts officer, 5 jawans

A STAFF REPORTER

Guwahati, Jan. 8: Members of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) allegedly kidnapped an Assam Rifles captain and five jawans along with their arms and ammunition at Zhamai in Nagaland's Phek district today.

Lt Col Nirupam Bhargav, a defence spokesman in Kohima, confirmed the abduction and said Capt. Shapam Momo had gone to Zhamai from Pfutsero town on a routine patrol with the five jawans when they were overpowered by a large number of NSCN cadres.

He said the abducted persons were kept in the nearby NSCN (I-M) designated camp at Kopamedzu and that negotiations were on with the help of village elders to seek their release.

None of the NSCN (I-M) leaders were available for comment till late tonight. The defence spokesman said the Assam Rifles team could be overpowered as it had restrained itself in view of the ceasefire with the outfit.

The rebels, however, did not bother about the ceasefire ground rules and abducted the Assam Rifles personnel, he alleged.

The NSCN (I-M) had recently claimed to have "arrested" several people in connection with extortions, abductions and ransoms as part of "a drive against antisocial elements" in and around Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland.

The information and publicity wing of the NSCN said many of the arrested persons were from its rival NSCN (Khaplang) faction who it later released.

This gesture is also to pave the way for the arrested NSCN (I-M) cadres by the rival group who are yet to be released.

Chidambaram's visit to US deferred

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | January 08, 2009 | 22:47 IST

Home Minister P Chidambaram's proposed visit to the United States this weekend has most likely been deferred, sources informed on Thursday.

Sources suggested that the Ministry of External Affairs had expressed reservations over Chidambaram's visit. The MEA believed that President-elect Barack Obama and his team were presently pre-occupied with the crisis in West Asia. Apparently, Washington had communicated the same to New Delhi.

Many eyebrows had been raised when Chidambaram announced his trip to the United States to hand over the dossier prepared by India, highlighting Pakistani involvement in the November 26 attacks on Mumbai. In political circles, the move was termed as premature and imprudent.

Steps by Pak have not ended terror threat: US

PTI | January 08, 2009 | 20:58 IST

Voicing its determination to ensure elimination of terror threat emanating from Pakistan, the United States on Thursday said the steps taken by Islamabad so far were not sufficient in this direction and there is a 'long way to go'.

US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who held talks with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon soon after his arrival from Islamabad, stressed the need for tracking down individuals and organisations behind the Mumbai attacks by following leads 'as far as they go'.

The US official, who has told the Pakistani leadership to take the probe into Mumbai attacks to its logical conclusion, briefed Menon on his discussions in Islamabad.

"The principal topic is the Mumbai attacks. It was a horrible attack against Indians, Americans and others. We will continue to follow up on that," Boucher told reporters after meeting the Foreign Secretary.

He said the US and India are both 'determined to find out who did this, how it was done and how to make sure it does not happen again.'

He said the US would keep making efforts to ensure that 'this threat to Indians, Americans, whole world, including Pakistan, is eliminated'.

"I think what we have seen so far is what we have said -- it is a promising start. In Pakistan we have seen some people detained, we have seen offices go down, they (Pakistan government) are back against the Jaamat-ud Dawah," he said.

However, 'we obviously do not think steps so far have eliminated the threat', Boucher said, adding "The goal that we all have is to make sure that this cannot happen again."

Boucher underlined the need for tracking down those 'responsible for organising the attack and following the leads as far as they go to make sure that we know everybody who was involved but also to close down the organisations that were involved in undertaking this attack' in Mumbai.

"Initials steps are promising but there is a long way to go to eliminate the threat of terrorism from Pakistani soil," the US official said.

Boucher and Menon discussed the dossier of evidence that links Mumbai attacks to Lashkar-e-Tayiba and other Pakistan-based elements.

Menon is understood to have told Boucher that Islamabad needs to come out of its denial mode and sincerely follow the leads which India has given to Pakistan in the dossier.

India will no longer be satisfied with words and promises and it wants concrete actions on the ground against individuals and groups that were behind the terror strikes, the Foreign Secretary is understood to have told Boucher.

Besides seeking real-time action against those behind the Mumbai attacks, India also wants to ensure that such an incident will not recur.

Boucher conveyed to Menon that Pakistan has promised to examine the dossier and investigate the matter.

Analysis: Durrani's sacking shows Zardari-Gilani tussle

By A Correspondent | January 08, 2009 | 16:00 IST

The Indian establishment considers the sacking of Pakistan's national security adviser Mehmud Ali Durrani for "irresponsible behaviour" by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as a major development in Pakistani politics.

On Wednesday evening Durrani said the terrorist Ajmal Kasab, captured after the Mumbai terrorist strikes of November 2008, was a Pakistani, and within hours he was unceremoniously sacked.

According to an assessment by a New Delhi-based Pakistan expert in India's intelligence establishment, Durrani paid the price for his image of being pro-America and "softer" towards India. He was officially coordinating on security issues among the Pakistani army, civilian government and America.

Durrani told some journalists in Islamabad that the Pakistani army and President Asif Ali Zardari were aware of his stance over Kasab, but it's believed that Gilani could not have acted on his own on such a serious issue.

It is being noted that Durrani was sacked when President Zardari was on a visit to Kabul.

Wednesday saw confusion reign for a few hours over the conflicting statements of Pakistani officials on the issue of Kasab's nationality. At the end of it the foreign office spokesman, Muhammad Sadiq, told journalists that Kasab was a Pakistani citizen, and it had been established by investigating agencies which had given their report to the foreign ministry.

But, the acceptance came a bit too late.

A few hours prior to Sadiq's statement, Pakistan's state minister for interior, Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi, told the media that 'he could say with authority that Kasab was not a Pakistani citizen and the Mumbai attack was a drama staged by the Indians themselves.'

And foreign secretary Salman Bashir added to the confusion when he showed reluctance to accept Kasab as a Pakistani.

He told CNN-IBN television channel that as the investigation was continuing, he could not confirm that Kasab was a Pakistani.

Durrani is a close personal friend of former president Pervez Musharraf who in fact sent him as the ambassador to the US. Durrani is well-disposed towards the US and India, and strongly believes that the time has come for giving up using terrorism against India. He played an important role in persuading Musharraf to withdraw all pending cases against Benazir and Zardari and pass the national reconciliation ordinance to pave the way for Benazir's return to Pakistan. While Benazir liked him, Zardari was uncomfortable with him for reasons which are not clear. Benazir had told the US that if she came to power, she would make him the national security adviser.

After her assassination, when the PPP-led coalition came to power, Zardari was reluctant to take him on as NSA.

According to some reports, Durrani was made NSA under pressure from the American lobby, but designated as NSA to Prime Minister Yourself Raza Gilani and not NSA to the president.

One theory doing the rounds in Islamabad is that Durranihad very little access to Zardari.

The sacking of a top officer in the security establishment is seen in New Delhi as an impending showdown between PM Gilani and President Zardari. An Indian intelligence officer told rediff.com, "It's very well possible that when Zardari was out of the country Gilani took a hawkish stand to please the army chief General Ashfaq Kiyani. Right now, a hard stand against anyone perceived to be softer on India or America makes good politics in Islamabad."

Though the Pakistani media has been speculating for sometime about the differences between Zardari and Gilani, one cannot say with certainty that these differences also related to Durrani's Kasab comment. Musharraf could well be playing his own game from behind the scenes in order to embarrass the government.

The Indian establishment's assessment is that steadily, the Pakistani army is putting its act together to once again control the power structure while taking care to remain behind the curtains.

Both Zardari and Gilani suspect that Durrani made the comment about the possibility of Kasab being a Pakistaniin a CNN interview, possibly at the instance of Musharraf to create an embarrassment for the PPP-led government. Hence his removal.

Interestingly,Musharraf andKayani continue to be good personal friends.

Naturally, all this leads to the conclusion that there are wheels within wheels behind Durrani's sacking.

The crisis has also fuelled hectic political activity within the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.

Hussain Haqquani, Pakistan's ambassador to the US, and Abdullah Hussain Haroon, its representative to the United Nations, are arriving in Islamabad for consultations with their party leaders.

Excesses by paramilitary forces: 591 cases in 5 yrs
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 8
Excesses by paramilitary forces seem to be touching new heights, with 180 complaints lodged with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the last year alone.

Data gathered from the commission shows a consistent rise in the number of complaints of alleged human rights violations by paramilitary forces, with the maximum - 180 - recorded between 2007 and January 2008. The year previous to that, the corresponding figure was 173. What's worrying is that the trend is being revealed at a time when the government is busy strengthening the hands of the state to combat terrorism.

In the last five years, 591 such cases were reported to the commission, which has ordered compensation in five - the only proven cases. The rest simply drag on for years or rot in the files in the absence of government's sanction to proceed against the officers involved.

That is one reason why the people of northeast and Jammu and Kashmir have been clamouring for end to the Forces Special Powers Act, which grants immunity of sorts to security personnel found committing excesses. Permission to prosecute officers thus involved has to be sought from the Home Ministry, and is a long-drawn process.

Analysis of the complaints filed with the NHRC shows that in most of the cases the victims have died in firing. Over 46 cases out of 591 pertain to death due to firing, followed by 15 cases of fake encounters, 14 of custodial torture and seven involving death in encounters.

Arbitrary use of power was alleged by complainants in as many as 159 cases. Other cases pertain to illegal detention (19), victimisation (41), abduction and rape (11).

The commission, in five cases tried against the paramilitary forces to the logical conclusion, ordered a compensation of Rs 7.5 lakh. What's more, the mounting allegations of atrocities by men in uniform prompted the commission to hold a national consultation on detention.

The commission has now given elaborate recommendations on the human rights of detainees and said, "There is a need to understand that a person in custody is under the care of the state and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure protection of his/her basic rights."

This should, however, not be confused as advocacy for rights of criminals and terrorists, the NHRC has added.

The paramilitary forces apart, the commission received in the last three years 45 complaints of deaths in police custody by one NGO alone, namely the Asian Centre for Human Rights. On its own, the commission took note of 75 such cases, ordering a whopping Rs 100 crore as compensation to the victims' families.

Gauging Sri Lanka's inroads in battle against Tigers

The Army seized another key town, Pallai, Thursday, and has squeezed the rebels from north and south.

By Anuj Chopra | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

from the January 9, 2009 edition

Pune, India - The Sri Lankan Army made significant inroads against the rebel Tamil Tigers in the past week – seizing their de facto capital and another key town, squeezing fighters from north and south – but these military victories are unlikely to mark the end of the island's quarter-century-old conflict.

Like many guerrilla groups, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) can resort to a military Plan B: retreat from towns but continue its battle from the jungle, making it difficult for the government to assert control over the long-embattled north.

"This [victory in Kilinochchi] is a huge military achievement with significant political ramifications," says Ashok Mehta, a retired general who led an unsuccessful Indian peacekeeping force against the Tigers in 1987. "But will it end the war? No."

Even if all Tiger-held territory is captured, it will only "end the conventional phase of the war," Mr. Mehta adds. From their hideout in the jungles, the Tigers may continue to wage "guerrilla attacks backed by suicide terrorist attacks."

Sri Lankan forces have boxed in the Tigers' territory since taking control of Pallai to the north on Thursday and Kilinochchi, the rebels' administrative capital, to the south last Friday. Between the two towns lies the strategic Elephant Pass, which connects Jaffna Peninsula in the north with the rest of the island.

The Army is also pushing toward Mullaithivu, a town southeast of Kilinochchi and the Tigers' final stronghold in the north of the island.

The fall of Mullaithivu "is only a matter of time," says Mehta, adding that Kilinochchi provides a strategic base from which the Sri Lankan Army can wage that offensive.

On Wednesday, the government formally banned the Tigers and vowed to crush them. The move is largely symbolic, since the Army ended its 2002 Norway-backed cease-fire with the Tigers a year ago and began a military offensive.

These gains come after two years of military victories over the Tigers, during which they were driven out from the east of the island, and lost a vast swath of their territory in the north.

The government has hailed last week's seizure of Kilinochchi as a decisive victory. "Whatever the words or language used to describe it, this is truly an incomparable victory," President Mahinda Rajapaksa said last week. "What our heroic troops have achieved is not only the capture of the great fortress of the LTTE, but a major victory in the world's battle against terrorism."

Yet control of Kilinochchi has switched hands several times in the past few decades, a reminder of the challenges the government faces in retaining control of reclaimed areas. The Tamil Tigers first seized control of Kilinochchi in 1990, lost it in 1996 to the Army, then recaptured it two years later. Under their control the city became the rebels' de facto capital, with civil courts, police, and administrative offices.

In a defiant statement issued Thursday, LTTE political chief B. Nadesan noted that "Kilinochchi town was captured more than once by the Sri Lanka military earlier."

"Similarly, we have also recaptured the town on earlier occasions, effectively bringing the town under our control to serve the administrative and infrastructure needs," the statement read.

"Even after the fall of Kilinochchi," says Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the director of Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a think tank based in Colombo, "a low-level insurgency could last forever unless there is a negotiated settlement with the Tamils."

The Tigers have battled for more than a quarter century to establish an independent political state for ethnic Tamils, who make up about 18 percent of the population. In a CPA survey conducted in mid-2008, 83 percent of Tamils polled said the way to end the conflict and attain peace in Sri Lanka is to stop the war and hold political negotiations.

Among the country's ethnic Sinhalese, who make up about 74 percent of the population, 48 percent believe that the solution is for the government to wipe out the Tigers.

Fighting in recent months has forced some 250,000 civilians to flee their homes, according to the Law and Society Trust, a nongovernmental organization based in Colombo .

Wire material was used for this report.

New Delhi weighs up US missile shield

By Amy Kazmin in New Delhi and Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad

Published: January 7 2009 18:31 | Last updated: January 8 2009 10:48

The US is in preliminary talks with India over the sale of missile shield systems to help New Delhi guard against nuclear threats.

India's need for greater protection against threats emanating from Pakistan and other volatile countries in the region was highlighted by an escalation in tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours following the Mumbai terror attacks in November last year. India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the last 61 years.

Officials at the US embassy in New Delhi told the Financial Times that talks had taken place over the last two years, mainly at the technical level. They said US defence officials had conducted computer simulations with their Indian counterparts to demonstrate the capabilities of such technology.

Experts from India's Defence Research Development Organisation have also watched two live launches of missiles used in the shield system.

The development highlights the fast-changing nature of the strategic engagement between Washington and New Delhi, after decades of frosty relations.

"India is a partner of ours, and we want to provide it with whatever it needs to protect itself," one US embassy official said. "This fits into the overall strategic partnership we are building."

However, India's politicians and defence planners have yet to take a final decision on whether to buy any foreign shield systems as they undertake an expensive modernisation of the army and replace ageing Soviet-era military hardware.

"I get the impression the scientists are quite interested, and that some in the strategic policy community…see this as a future tool in their kit bag," another US official said. "But India's political leadership and its strategic community need to decide what their interests and threats are."

Satish Nambiar, former head of a military think-tank, said acquiring missile shield technology from Washington would be a sensitive move for any Indian administration, given public ambivalence towards the US.

"It would have very serious political repercussions here," he said.

Interest among Indian defence planners in missile shield systems has grown considerably since September 11, 2001, prompted partly by fears of so-called "loose nukes" in Pakistan, where pervasive instability has prompted concerns about nuclear materials falling in the hands of rogue actors.

A senior Pakistani official with detailed knowledge of the country's own nuclear programme said last night that Pakistan "will have to take counter- measures to respond" to any agreement between the US and India over a missile defence system.

"For the past many years, we have been considering the possibility of such an outcome one day," the official said.

New Delhi also views China – with which it has an outstanding border dispute – as a potential adversary, although relations between the aspiring Asian superpowers remain polite.

India has been working to develop its own indigenous missile defence systems, and has conducted two missile intercept tests in the last two years.

JIHADISM IN 2009: THE TRENDS CONTINUE

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

For the past several years, we have published an annual forecast for al Qaeda and the jihadist movement. Since the January 2006 forecast, we have focused heavily on the devolution of jihadism from a phenomenon focused primarily on al Qaeda the group to one based primarily on al Qaeda the movement. Last year, we argued that al Qaeda was struggling to remain relevant and that al Qaeda prime had been marginalized in the physical battlefield. This marginalization of al Qaeda prime had caused that group to forfeit its position at the vanguard of the physical jihad, though it remained deeply involved in the leadership of the ideological battle.

As a quick reminder, Stratfor views what most people refer to as "al Qaeda" as a global jihadist network rather than a monolithic entity. This network consists of three distinct entities. The first is a core vanguard, which we frequently refer to as al Qaeda prime, comprising Osama bin Laden and his trusted associates. The second is composed of al Qaeda franchise groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq, and the third comprises the grassroots jihadist movement inspired by al Qaeda prime and the franchise groups.

As indicated by the title of this forecast, we believe that the trends we have discussed in previous years will continue, and that al Qaeda prime has become marginalized on the physical battlefield to the extent that we have not even mentioned their name in the title. The regional jihadist franchises and grassroots operatives pose a much more significant threat in terms of security concerns, though it is important to note that those concerns will remain tactical and not rise to the level of a strategic threat. In our view, the sort of strategic challenge that al Qaeda prime posed with the 9/11 attacks simply cannot be replicated without a major change in geopolitical alignments -- a change we do not anticipate in 2009.

2008 in Review

Before diving into our forecast for the coming year, let's take a quick look back at what we said would happen in 2008 and see what we got right and what we did not.

What we got right:

Al Qaeda core focused on the ideological battle. Another year has passed without a physical attack by the al Qaeda core. As we noted last October, al Qaeda spent a tremendous amount of effort in 2008 fighting the ideological battle. The core leadership still appears to be very intent on countering the thoughts presented in a book written in 2007 by Sayyed Imam al-Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl, an imprisoned Egyptian radical and a founder (with Ayman al-Zawahiri) of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Al-Sharif's book is seen as such a threat because he provides theological arguments that counter many of the core teachings used by al Qaeda to justify jihadism. On Dec. 13, an 85-page treatise by one of al Qaeda's leading religious authorities, Abu-Yahya al-Libi, was released to jihadist Web sites in the latest of al Qaeda's many efforts to counter Dr. Fadl's arguments.

Pakistan will be important as a potential flashpoint. Eight days after we wrote this, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Since then, Pakistan has become the focal point on the physical battlefield.

The November 2007 addition of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) to the global jihadist network will not pose a serious threat to the Libyan regime. The Libyans have deftly used a combination of carrots and sticks to divide and control the LIFG.

Jihadists will kill more people with explosives and firearms than with chemical, biological or radiological weapons. We saw no jihadist attacks using WMD in 2008.

What we got mostly right:

The Algerian jihadist franchise, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), will be hard-pressed in 2008, but not eliminated. AQIM succeeded in launching a large number of attacks in the first eight months of 2008, killing as many people as it did in all of 2007. But since then, the Algerian government has been making progress, and the jihadist group has only conducted two attacks since August 2008. The Algerians also are working closely with neighboring countries to combat AQIM, and the group is definitely feeling the heat. On Dec. 23, 2008, the Algerian government reportedly rejected a truce offered by AQIM leader Yahia Djouadi. Djouadi offered that al Qaeda would cease attacks on foreigners operating in oil fields in Algeria and Mauritania if the Algerian security service would cease targeting al Qaeda members in the Sahel region. The group is still alive, and government pressure appears to have affected its operational ability in recent months, but it did take a bit longer t han we anticipated for the pressure to make a difference.

Syria will use Fatah al-Islam as a destabilizing force in Lebanon. We had intelligence last year suggesting that the Syrians were going to press the use of their jihadist proxies in Lebanon -- specifically Fatah al-Islam. We saw a bit of this type of activity in late May, but not as much as anticipated. By November, Syria actually decided to cut ties with Fatah al-Islam.

Jihadist operatives outside war zones will focus on soft targets. Major terrorist strikes in Islamabad and New Delhi were conducted against hotels, soft targets Stratfor has focused on as vulnerable for many years now. Other attacks in India focused on markets and other public places. While most of the attacks against hard targets came in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, there were a few attacks against hard targets in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Turkey. Granted, the Sanaa and Istanbul attacks were unsuccessful, but they were attacks against hard targets nonetheless.

What we missed:

The jihadist franchises in Yemen resurged, and the al-Shabab in Somalia found success. While we quickly picked up on these trends in April and May respectively (and beat most others to the punch with some very good analysis on these topics), we clearly did not predict them in December 2007. We knew that the influx of fighters from Iraq was going to impact countries in the region, but we didn't specifically focus on Yemen and Somalia.

The Year Ahead

We anticipate that we will see the United States continue its campaign of decapitation strikes against al Qaeda leadership. While this campaign has not managed to get bin Laden or al-Zawahiri, it has proved quite successful at causing the al Qaeda apex leadership to lie low and become marginalized from the physical jihad. The campaign also has killed a long list of key al Qaeda operational commanders and trainers. As noted above, we believe the core leadership is very concerned about the ideological battle being waged against it -- the only real way the theology of jihadism can be defeated -- and will continue to focus their efforts on that battlespace.

As long as the ideology of jihadism survives (it has been around since the late 1980s), the jihadists' war against the world will continue. It will continue to oscillate between periods of high and low intensity. In the coming year, we believe the bulk of physical attacks will continue to be conducted by regional jihadist franchise groups, and to a lesser extent by grassroots jihadists.

With the lack of regional franchises in North America, we do not see a strategic threat to the United States. However, as seen by the recent convictions in the Fort Dix plot trial, or even in the late October case where a U.S. citizen apparently committed a suicide bombing on behalf of al-Shabab in Somalia, the threat of simple attacks against soft targets in the United States remains. We were again surprised that no jihadist attacks occurred in the United States in 2008. Given the vulnerabilities that exist in an open society and the ease of attack, we cannot rule out an attack in 2009.

In Europe, where AQIM and other jihadist franchises have a greater presence and infrastructure, there is a greater threat that these franchises will commit sophisticated attacks. It must be recognized, though, that they will have a far harder time acquiring weapons and explosives to conduct such attacks in the United Kingdom or France than they would in Algeria or Pakistan. Because of this, we anticipate that they will continue to focus on soft targets in Europe. Due to differences between the Muslim communities in the United States and Europe, the grassroots operatives have been more active in Europe than they are in the United States. The May 22, 2008, attempted bombing at the Giraffe Cafe by a Muslim convert in Exeter serves as a good reminder of this.

Jihadist Franchises

After failing last year to predict the resurgence of the jihadist franchises in Yemen and Somalia, we will be keeping a sharp eye on both for 2009. Somalia continues to be a basket case of a country, and the instability there is providing an opportunity for al-Shabab to flourish. There is currently an attempt under way to bring stability to Somalia, but we anticipate that it will not succeed, due to the militant factionalism in the country. The only thing working against al-Shabab and their jihadist brethren is that the Somalian jihadists appear to be as fractious as the rest of the country; al-Shabab is itself a splinter of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council (SICC), which ruled Somalia briefly before the Ethiopian invasion in 2006. There are currently as many as four different jihadist factions fighting one another for control over various areas of Somalia -- in addition to fighting foreign troops and the interim government.

In Yemen, things have been eerily quiet since the Sept. 17 attack against the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and the government campaign to go after the group behind that attack. Six gunmen were killed in the attack itself, and the Yemenis have arrested numerous others whom they claim were involved in planning the attack. The Yemenis also killed or captured several significant jihadists prior to the September attack. But given the large number of Yemenis involved in the fighting in Iraq, the number of Saudi militants who have traveled to Yemen due to pressure at home, and the Salafist-jihadist influence within Yemen's security and intelligence apparatus, it will be possible for the two jihadist franchises in Yemen to recover if the Yemenis give them breathing space.

Meanwhile, though Iraq is far calmer than it was a few years back, a resurgence in jihadist activity is possible. One of the keys to calming down the many jihadist groups in Iraq was the formation of the Awakening Councils, which are made up of many Sunni former Baathist (and some jihadist) militants placed on the U.S. payroll. With the changes in Iraq, responsibility for these Awakening Councils has been passed to the Iraqi government. If the Shiite-dominated government decides not to pay the councils, many of the militants-turned-security officers might return to their old ways -- especially if the pay from jihadist groups is right. Intelligence reports indicate that Baghdad plans to pay only a fraction of the approximately 100,000 men currently serving in the Awakening Councils. The Iraqi central government apparently plans to offer the bulk of them civilian jobs or job training, but we are skeptical that this will work.

Elsewhere, Pakistan is once again the critical location for the jihadists. Not only is Pakistan the home of the al Qaeda core leadership as its pursues its ideological war, it also is home to a number of jihadist groups, from the Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in the northwest to Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in the northeast, among several others. The coming year might prove to be pivotal in global efforts against the jihadists in Pakistan. Pakistan already is a country in crisis, and in some ways it is hard to imagine it getting much worse. But if Pakistan continues to destabilize, it could very well turn into a failed country (albeit a failed country with a nuclear arsenal). Before Pakistan becomes a failed state, there are a number of precursor stages it probably will pass through. The most immediate stage would entail the fall of most of the North-West Frontier Province to the jihadists, something that could happen this year.

This type of anarchy in Pakistan could give the jihadists an opportunity to exert control in a way similar to what they have done in places like Afghanistan and Somalia (and already in the Pakistani badlands along the Afghan border.) If, on the other hand, Pakistan is somehow able to hold on, re-establish control over its territory and its rogue intelligence agency and begin to cooperate with the United States and other countries fighting the jihadists, such a development could deal a terrible blow to the aspirations of the jihadists on both the physical and ideological battlefields. Given the number of plots linked to Pakistan in recent years, including the Nov. 26 Mumbai attack and almost every significant plot since 9/11, all eyes will be watching Pakistan carefully.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to www.stratfor.com.

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