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Thursday, 29 January 2009

From Today's Papers - 29 Jan 09

Lanka's war against LTTE
India helped with crucial intelligence
by Maj-Gen Ashok K. Mehta (retd)

WHAT the IPKF could not do – defeat the LTTE – the Sri Lankan forces have done, demonstrating that insurgency can be subdued with the right mix of strategy, resources and political will. India's coercive diplomacy failed due to the lack of political will. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's sudden visit to Colombo after the Republic Day celebrations in the aftermath of the human crisis arising from the war was designed to placate the government's key allies in Tamil Nadu.

When years of negotiation did not bear fruit, a determined military campaign seems poised to end violence for a political solution to take root. Under the scanner are two other familiar assertions:that while you can have a political solution without the LTTE, you cannot have peace without it; and that only India can hammer out a durable political settlement. The man who has almost achieved the impossible task of taming the Tigers is Mr Mahinda Rajapakse, who is destined to go down in history as Sri Lanka's greatest President, a modern-day Duttugemunu who vanquished Tamil king Elara in the second century BC.

I recall a former Sri Lankan Army Commander, Lt-Gen Hamilton Wanasinghe, telling me after the IPKF had left the island that if India had kept out "we would be able to sort out the Tigers".

Yet, legitimate doubts persist. For the settlement to become lasting, will a political package for the Tamils be implemented soon; and has violence been reduced to levels that it no longer poses any threat to the North-East and the South of the country? The two are interlinked. Mr Rajapakse has said he is committed to a political solution which will follow military victory. His mantra for the resolution of the conflict is contained in four Ds: disarmament, democracy, development and devolution, in that order. The relegation of devolution to the last slot has encouraged the belief that Mr Rajapakse is chasing a military solution.

A victory would have been more palatable for the Tamils had devolution been as high a priority as the military campaign and been implemented after the liberation of the Eastern Province last year. Instead, Mr Rajapakse's commitment to devolution and its content are being questioned. As for violence, it has increased in the East but is manageable.

Mr Rajapakse will declare a military victory once Mullaithivu district, Prabhakaran's citadel, is captured. His next move will be graduated elections in the North, starting with Jaffna, replicating the template of the East. The ongoing all-out military offensive has been called a "humanitarian operation" to liberate the Tamils from the clutches of the LTTE terrorists. Some 300,000 Tamils, many being allegedly used a human shields, are in Mullaithivu.

For defeating the LTTE, Mr Rajapakse has to ensure that his forces weed out the Tigers from the thick Mullaithivu jungles just as the IPKF after capturing Jaffna had done by clearing Nittikaikulam before announcing elections in the North-East in 1988-89. Cleansing the populated areas of the Tigers is essential as people's support is more vital for the warring factions than mere control of territory. That is why devolution and winning hearts and minds of Tamils ought to have preceded or been in tandem with military victory.

Mr Gothbaya Rajapakse, the President's brother and a key manager of the military campaign, has said government forces will launch counter-insurgency operations to search and destroy the LTTE's war-fighting capabilities in sync with the strategy of keeping the Tigers separated from the Tamils, rendering them like fish out of water.

While the fall of Mullaithivu will end the conventional phase of the war, it will mark the start of Eelam War V — return of Tigers to waging a guerrilla campaign. In order to relocate their military assets outside Mullaithivu district, they will have to buy time fighting the last battle. Although government forces have captured the LTTE's six airstrips used to launch the nine air attacks in 2007-08, no aircraft has been found by the forces. Presumably, these have either been relocated on the island or taken out of the country; one report suggesting that Prabhakaran could have flown out in one of them. But Tigers have confirmed that he is in Mullaithivu, leading his fighters.

Tigers require to regroup and rethink their new strategy so that they do not become irrelevant to the ethnic question. As Tigers will continue the war by other means, the government must expect organised guerrilla warfare backed by terrorism to resume with or without Prabhakaran.

This war would not have been won without India's moral and material support. Mr Rajapakse, who deftly turned its focus from ethnicity to terrorism, drawing a distinction between Tamils and Tiger terrorists, was successful in deflecting India's periodic calls to end the war and start the political process. He said that India was helping in fighting the war. Calls from Tamil Nadu for a ceasefire were ignored. General Fonseka got so mad with Tamil Nadu politicians that he referred to them as "jokers", prompting Mr Gothbaya Rajapakse to apologise.

The government also ignored National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan's warning that Sri Lanka should not seek weapons from Pakistan and China but should come to India which was a big power and it would decide Sri Lanka's needs which would be defensive in nature. Mr Narayanan has described General Fonseka as the world's greatest Army Commander.

New Delhi played a double game — outwardly calling for restraint, and ending the war to placate Tamil Nadu politicians, while quietly supporting Colombo with crucial intelligence and coordinated operations on the high seas which enabled the Sri Lankan Navy in 2007-08 to sink all the eight LTTE merchant vessels that ferried Tiger replenishments from overseas. This was the turning point in the war. Air supremacy, precision-guided attacks taking out top Tiger leaders and drying of funds from diaspora led to Tiger operational capacities dipping to an unprecedented low level, the trigger for the Northern offensive.

India, which intervened in 1987 to rescue Prabhakaran and the Tigers, stayed aloof in 2000 when the LTTE was on the verge of routing the military garrison and ignored Sri Lanka's request for a rescue mission to evacuate troops. But in a strategic turn-around, New Delhi has facilitated Colombo's defeat of the Tigers over the head of the government's key DMK ally whose leader once called the IPKF an Indian Tamil Killing Force and who has been threatening to withdraw support to the government.

Till Mr Rajapakse came on the scene, India's Sri Lanka policy was described as "exercising decisive influence without direct involvement". After the military victories, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon on a visit to Colombo this month praised Sri Lanka's role in combating terrorism and characterised India-Sri Lanka relations as "having reached unprecedented level of depth and quality today" and "having withstood the test of time and adversity". On another occasion during the same visit he described relations as "never so close, so warm and so deep". China and Pakistan, which have played a major role in the successful conduct of the war, do not have to claim warmth and proximity to Sri Lanka.

While Mr Mukherjee will be unable to get Mr Rajapakse to halt the offensive, humanitarian concerns of Tamils will get addressed as they were earlier before the fall of Kilinochchi. Mr Mukherjee could learn a lesson on robust use of force in combating terrorism from the Sri Lankan story: from defeat to victory. He must press Mr Rajapakse to devolve power without waiting for the obituary of the Tigers to be written.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kargil Conflict and Pakistan Air Force

Pakistani writings on Kargil conflict have been few and, those that have come out were largely irrelevant and in a few cases, clearly sponsored. The role of the PAF has been discussed off and on, but mostly disparagingly, particularly in some uninformed quarters. Here is an airman's perspective, focusing on the IAF's air operations and the PAF's position.

Operational Planning in the PAF

Since an important portion of this write-up pertains to the PAF's appreciation of the situation and the decision-making loop during the Kargil conflict, we will start with a brief primer on PAF's hierarchy and how operational matters are handled at the Air Headquarters.

The policy-making elements at Air Headquarters consist of four-tiers of staff officers. The top-most tier is made up of the Deputy Chiefs of Air Staff (DCAS) who are the Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) of their respective branches and are nominally headed by the Vice Chief of Air Staff (VCAS). They (along with Air Officers Commanding, the senior representatives from field formations) are members of the Air Board, PAF's 'corporate' decision-making body which is chaired by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS). The next tier is made up of Assistant Chiefs of Air Staff (ACAS) who head various sub-branches and, along with the third-tier Directors, assist the PSOs in policy-making; they are not on the Air Board, but can be called for hearings and presentations in the Board meetings, as required. A fourth tier of Deputy Directors does most of the sundry staff work in this policy-making hierarchy.

The Operations & Plans branch is the key player in any war, conflict or contingency and is responsible for threat assessment and formulation of a suitable response. During peace-time, war plans are drawn up by the Plans sub-branch and are then war-gamed in operational exercises run by the sister Operations sub-branch. Operational training is accordingly restructured and administered by the latter, based on the lessons of various exercises. This essentially is the gist of PAF's operational preparedness methodology, the efficiency of which is amply reflected in its readiness and telling response in various wars and skirmishes in the past.

In early 1999, Air Chief Marshal Parvaiz Mehdi Qureshi was at the helm of the PAF. An officer with an imposing personality, he had won the Sword of Honour at the Academy. During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, as a young Flight Lieutenant, he was on a close support mission in erstwhile East Pakistan when his Sabre was shot down and he was taken POW. He determinedly resumed his fighter pilot's career after repatriation and rose to command PAF's premier Sargodha Base. He was later appointed as the AOC, Southern Air Command, an appointment that affords considerable interaction amongst the three services, especially in operational exercises. He also held the vitally important post of DCAS (Ops) as well as the VCAS before taking over as CAS.

The post of DCAS (Ops) was held by the late Air Marshal Zahid Anis. A well-qualified fighter pilot, he had a distinguished career in the PAF, having held some of the most sought-after appointments. These included command of No 38 Tactical Wing (F-16s), the elite Combat Commanders' School and PAF Base, Sargodha. He was the AOC, Southern Air Command before his appointment as the head of the Operations branch at the Air Headquarters. He had done his Air War Course at the PAF's Air War College, another War Course at the French War College as well as the prestigious course at the Royal College of Defence Studies in UK.

The ACAS (Ops) was Air Cdre Abid Rao, who had recently completed command of PAF Base, Mianwali. He had earlier done his War Course from the French War College.

The ACAS (Plans) was the late Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz, a brilliant officer who had made his mark at the Staff College at Bracknell, UK and during the War Course at the National Defence College, Islamabad.

There is no gainsaying the fact that PAF's hierarchy was highly qualified and that each one of the players in the Operations branch had the requisite command and staff experience. The two top men had also fought in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, albeit as junior officers.

First Rumblings

As Director of Operations (in the rank of Gp Capt), my first opportunity to interact with the Army's Director of Military Operations (DMO) was over a phone call, some time in March 1999. Brig Nadeem Ahmed called with great courtesy and requested some information that he needed for a paper exercise, as he told me. He wanted to know when had the PAF last carried out a deployment at Skardu, how many aircraft were deployed, etc. Rather impressed with the Army's interest in PAF matters, I passed on the requisite details. The next day, Brig Nadeem called again, but this time his questions were more probing and he wanted some classified information including fuel storage capacity at Skardu, fighter sortie-generation capacity, radar coverage, etc. He insisted that he was preparing a briefing and wanted to get his facts and figures right, in front of his bosses. We got on a secure line and I passed on the required information. Although he made it sound like routine contingency planning, I sensed that something unusual was brewing. In the event, I thought it prudent to inform the DCAS (Ops). Just to be sure, he checked up with his counterpart, the Director General Military Operations (DGMO), Maj Gen Tauqir Zia, who said the same thing as his DMO and, assured that it was just part of routine contingency planning.

After hearing Gp Capt Tariq's report, Air Marshal Zahid again got in touch with Maj Gen Tauqir and, in a roundabout way, told him that if the Army's ongoing 'review of contingency plans' required the PAF to be factored in, an Operations & Plans team would be available for discussion. Nothing was heard from the GHQ till 12 May, when Air Marshal Zahid was told to send a team for a briefing at HQ 10 Corps with regard to the 'Kashmir Contingency'.

Air Cdre Abid Rao, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz and myself were directed by the DCAS (Ops) to attend a briefing on the 'latest situation in Kashmir' at HQ 10 Corps. We were welcomed by the Chief of Staff (COS) of the Corps, who led us to the briefing room. Shortly thereafter, the Corps Commander, Lt Gen Mehmud Ahmad entered, cutting an impressive figure clad in a bush-coat and his trademark camouflage scarf. After exchanging pleasantries, the COS started with the map orientation briefing. Thereafter, Lt Gen Mehmud took over and broke the news that a limited operation had started two days earlier. It was nothing more than a 'protective manoeuvre', he explained, and was meant to foreclose any further mischief by the enemy, who had been a nuisance in the Neelum Valley, specially on the road on our side of the Line of Control (LOC). He then elaborated that a few vacant Indian posts had been occupied on peaks across the LOC, overlooking the Dras-Kargil Road. These would, in effect, serve the purpose of Airborne Observation Posts (AOP) meant for directing artillery fire with accuracy. Artillery firepower would be provided by a couple of field guns that had been heli-lifted to the heights, piecemeal, and re-assembled over the previous few months when the Indians had been off-guard during the winter extremes. The target was a vulnerable section of Dras-Kargil Road, whose blocking would virtually cut off the crucial life-line which carried the bulk of supplies needed for daily consumption as well as annual winter-stocking in Leh-Siachen Sector. He was very hopeful that this stratagem could choke off the Indians in the vital sector for up to a month, after which the monsoons would prevent vehicular movement (due to landslides) and, also suspend all airlift by the IAF. "Come October, we shall walk in to Siachen – to mop up the dead bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold," he succinctly summed up what appeared to be a new dimension to the Siachen dispute. It also seemed to serve, at least for the time being, the secondary aim of alleviating Indian military pressure on Pakistani lines of communications in the Neelum Valley that the Corps Commander had alluded to in his opening remarks. (The oft-heard strategic aim of 'providing a fillip to the insurgency in Kashmir' was never mentioned.)

When Lt Gen Mehmud asked for questions at the end of the rather crisp and to-the-point briefing, Air Cdre Saleem Nawaz opened up by inquiring about the type of air support that might be needed for the operation. Lt Gen Mehmud assured us that air support was not envisaged and that his forces could take care of enemy aircraft, if they intervened. "I have Stingers on every peak," he announced. Air Cdre Saleem tried to point out the limited envelope of these types of missiles and said that nothing stopped the IAF from attacking the posts and artillery pieces from high altitude. To this, Lt Gen Mehmud's reply was that his troops were well camouflaged and concealed and, that IAF pilots would not be able to pick out the posts from the air. As the discussion became more animated, I asked the Corps Commander if he was sure the Indians would not use their artillery to vacate our incursion, given the criticality of the situation from their standpoint. He replied that the Dras-Kargil stretch did not allow for positioning of the hundreds of guns that would be required, due to lack of depth; in any case, it would be suicidal for the Indians to denude artillery firepower from any other sector as defensive balance had to be maintained. He gave the example of the Kathua-Jammu Sector where the Indians had a compulsion to keep the bulk of their modern Bofors guns due to the vital road link's vulnerability to our offensive elements.

It seemed from the Corps Commander's smug appreciation of the situation that the Indians had been tightly straitjacketed in Dras-Kargil Sector and had no option but to submit to our operational design. More significantly, an alternate action like a strategic riposte by the Indians in another sector had been rendered out of question, given the nuclear environment. Whether resort to an exterior manoeuvre (diplomatic offensive) by the beleaguered Indians had crossed the planners' minds, it was not discernable in the Corps Commander's elucidation.

Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air Cdre Abid Rao to famously quip, "After this operation, it's going to be either a Court Martial or Martial Law!" as we walked out of the briefing room.

Back at the Air Headquarters, we briefed the DCAS(Ops) about what had transpired at the 10 Corps briefing. His surprise at the developments, as well as his concern about the possibility of events spiralling out of control, could not remain concealed behind his otherwise unflappable demeanour. We all were also piqued at being left out of the Army's planning, though we were given to believe that it was a 'limited tactical action' in which the PAF would not be required – an issue that none of us agreed with. Presented with a fait accompli, we decided not to lose any more time and, while the DCAS (Ops) went to brief the CAS about the situation, we set about gearing up for a hectic routine. The operations room was quickly updated with the latest large-scale maps and air recce photos of the area; communications links with concerned agencies were also revamped in a short time. Deployment orders were issued and, within the next 48 hours, the bulk of combat elements were in-situ at their war locations.

IAF – By Fits & Starts

The IAF deployments in Kashmir, for what came to be known as 'Operation Safedsagar', commenced on 15 May with the bulk of operational assets positioned by 18 May. 150 combat aircraft were deployed as follows:

> Srinagar - 34 (MiG-21, MiG23, MiG-27)

> Awantipur - 28 (MiG-21, MiG29, Jaguar)

> Udhampur - 12 (MiG-21)

> Pathankot - 30 (MiG-21, MiG-23)

> Adampur - 46 (Mir-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar)

One-third of the aircraft were modern, 'high-threat' fighters equipped with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missiles. During the preparatory stage, air defence alert status (5 minutes to scramble from ground) was maintained while Mirage-2000s and Jaguars carried out photo-reconnaissance along the Line of Control (LOC) and aging Canberras carried out electronic intelligence (ELINT) to ferret out locations of PAF air defence sensors. Last minute honing of strafing and rocketing skills was carried out by pilots at an air-to-ground firing range near Leh.

Operations by IAF started in earnest on 26 May, a full 16 days after commencement of Pakistani infiltration across the LOC. The salient feature of this initial phase was strafing and rocketing of the intruders' positions by MiG-21, MiG-23BN and MiG-27. All operations (except air defence) came to a sudden standstill on 28 May, after two IAF fighters and a helicopter were lost – a MiG-21 and a Mi-17 to Pak Army surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), while a MiG-27 went down due to engine trouble caused by gun gas ingestion during high altitude strafing. (Incidentally, the pilot of the MiG-27 Flt Lt Nachiketa, who ejected and was apprehended, had a tête-à-tête with this author during an interesting 'interrogation' session.)

The results achieved by the IAF in the first two days were dismal. Serious restraints seem to have been imposed on the freedom of action of IAF fighters in what was basically a search-and-destroy mission. Lt Gen Mehmud's rant about a 'Stinger on every peak' seemed true. It was obvious that the IAF had under-estimated the SAM threat. The mood in Pak Army circles was that of undiluted elation, and the PAF was expected to sit it out while sharing the khakis' glee.

The IAF immediately went into a reappraisal mode and came out with GPS-assisted high altitude bombing by MiG-21, MiG-23BN and MiG-27 as a makeshift solution. In the meantime, quick modification on the Mirage-2000 for day/night laser bombing kits (Litening pods) was initiated with the help of Israelis. Conventional bombing that started incessantly after a two-day operational hiatus, was aimed at harassment and denial of respite to the infiltrators, with consequent adverse effects on morale. The results of this part of the campaign were largely insignificant, mainly because the target coordinates were not known accurately; the nature of the terrain too, precluded precision. A few cases of fratricide by IAF led it to be even more cautious.

By 16 June, IAF was able to open up the laser-guided bombing campaign with the help of Jaguars and Mirage-2000. Daily photo-recce along the LOC by Jaguars escorted by Mirage-2000s, which had continued from the beginning of operations, proved crucial to both the aerial bombing campaign as well as the Indian artillery, helping the latter in accurately shelling Pakistani positions in the Dras-Kargil and Gultari Sectors. While the photo-recce missions typically did not involve deliberate border violations, there were a total of 37 'technical violations' (which emanate as a consequence of kinks and bends in the geographical boundaries). Typically, these averaged to a depth of five nautical miles, except on one occasion when the IAF fighters apparently cocked-a-snoot at the PAF and came in 13 miles deep.

The Mirage-2000s scored at least five successful laser-guided bomb hits on forward dumping sites and posts. During the last days of operations which ended on 12 July, it was clear that delivery accuracy had improved considerably. Even though night bombing accuracy was suspect, round-the-clock attacks had made retention of posts untenable for Pakistani infiltrators. Photo-recce of Pakistani artillery gun positions also made them vulnerable to Indian artillery.

The IAF flew a total of 550 strike missions against infiltrator positions including bunkers and supply depots. The coordinates of these locations were mostly picked up from about 150 reconnaissance and communications intelligence missions. In addition, 500 missions were flown for air defence and for escorting strike and recce missions.

While the Indians had been surprised by the infiltration in Kargil, the IAF mobilised and reacted rapidly as the Indian Army took time to position itself. Later, when the Indian Army had entrenched itself, the IAF supplemented and filled in where the artillery could not be positioned in force. Clearly, Army-Air joint operations had a synergistic effect in evicting the intruders.

PAF in a Bind

From the very beginning of Kargil operations, PAF was entrapped by a circumstantial absurdity: it was faced with the ludicrous predicament of having to provide air support to infiltrators already disowned by the Pakistan Army leadership! In any case, it took some effort to impress on the latter that crossing the LOC by fighters laden with bombs was not, by any stretch of imagination, akin to lobbing a few artillery shells to settle scores. There was no doubt in the minds of PAF Air Staff that the first cross-border attack (whether across LOC or the international border) would invite an immediate response from the IAF, possibly in the shape of a retaliatory strike against the home base of the intruding fighters, thus starting the first round. PAF's intervention meant all-out war: this unmistakable conclusion was conveyed to the Prime Minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif, by the Air Chief in no equivocal terms.

Short of starting an all-out war, PAF looked at some saner options that could put some wind in the sails after doldrums had been hit. Air Marshal Najib Akhtar, the Air Officer Commanding of Air Defence Command was co-opted by the Air Staff to sift the possibilities. Audacious and innovative in equal parts, Air Marshal Najib had an excellent knowledge about our own and the enemy's Air Defence Ground Environment (ADGE). He had conceived and overseen the unprecedented heli-lift of a low-looking radar to a 14,000-ft mountain top on the forbidding Deosai Plateau. The highly risky operation became possible with the help of some courageous flying by Army Aviation pilots. With good low level radar cover now available up to the LOC, Air Marshal Najib along with the Air Staff focused on fighter sweep (a mission flown to destroy patrolling enemy fighters) as a possible option.

To prevent the mission from being seen as an escalatory step in the already charged atmosphere, PAF had to lure Indian fighters into its own territory, ie Azad Kashmir or the Northern Areas. That done, a number of issues had to be tackled. What if the enemy aircraft were hit in our territory but fell across, providing a pretext to India as a doubly aggrieved party? What if one of our own aircraft fell, no matter if the exchange was one-to-one (or better)? Finally, even if we were able to pull off a surprise, would it not be a one-off incident, with the IAF wisening up in quick time? The over-arching consideration was the BVR missile capability of IAF fighters which impinged unfavourably on the mission success probability. The conclusion was that a replication of the famous four-Vampire rout of 1st September 1965 by two Sabres might not be possible. The idea of a fighter sweep thus fizzled out as quickly as it came up for discussion.

While the PAF looked at some offensive options, it had a more pressing defensive issue at hand. The IAF's minor border violations during recce missions were not of grave consequence in so far as no bombing had taken place in our territory; however, the fact that these missions helped the enemy refine its air and artillery targeting, was, to say the least, disconcerting. There were constant reports of our troops on the LOC disturbed to see (or hear) IAF fighters operating with apparent impunity. The GHQ took the matter up with the AHQ and it was resolved that Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) would be flown by the F-16s operating out of Minhas (Kamra) and Sargodha. This arrangement resulted in less on-station time but was safer than operating out of vulnerable Skardu, which had inadequate early warning in the mountainous terrain; its status as a turn-around facility was, however, considered acceptable for its location. A flight of F-7s was, nonetheless, deployed primarily for point defence of the important garrison town of Skardu as well as the air base.

F-16 CAPs could not have been flown all day long as spares support was limited under the prevailing US sanctions. Random CAPs were resorted to, with a noticeable drop in border violations only as long as the F-16s were on station. There were a few cases of F-16s and Mirage-2000s locking their adversaries with the on-board radars but caution usually prevailed and no close encounters took place. After one week of CAPs, the F-16 maintenance personnel indicated that war reserve spares were being eaten into and that the activity had to be 'rationalised', a euphemism for discontinuing it altogether. That an impending war occupied the Air Staff's minds was evident in the decision by the DCAS (Ops) for F-16 CAPs to be discontinued, unless IAF activity became unbearably provocative or threatening.

Those not aware of the gravity of the F-16 operability problem under sanctions have complained of the PAF's lack of cooperation. Suffice it to say that if the PAF had been included in the initial planning, this anomaly (along with many others) would have emerged as a mitigating factor against the Kargil adventure. It is another matter that the Army high command did not envisage operations ever coming to such a pass. Now, it was almost as if the PAF was to blame for the Kargil venture spiralling out of control.

It also must be noted too that other than F-16s, the PAF did not have a capable enough fighter for patrolling, as the minimum requirement in this scenario was an on-board airborne intercept radar, exceptional agility and sufficient staying power. F-7s had reasonably good manoeuvrability but lacked an intercept radar as well as endurance, while the ground attack Mirage-III/5s and A-5s were sitting ducks for the air combat mission.

In sum, the PAF found it expedient not to worry too much about minor border violations and instead, conserve resources for the larger conflagration that was looming. All the same, it gave the enemy no pretext for for retaliation in the face of any provocation, though this latter stance irked some quarters in the Army that were desperate to 'equal the match'. Might it strike to some that PAF's restraint in warding off a major conflagration may have been its paramount contribution to the Kargil conflict?


It has emerged that the principal protagonists of the Kargil adventure were the Chief of Army Staff (COAS): General Pervez Musharraf, Commander 10 Corps: Lt Gen Mehmud Ahmed and Commander Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA): Maj Gen Javed Hasan. The trio, in previous ranks and appointments, had been associated with planning during paper exercises on how to wrest control of lost territory in Siachen. The plans were not acceptable to the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to whom the options had been put up for review more than once. She was well-versed in international affairs and, all too intelligent to be taken in by the chicanery. It fell to the wisdom of her successor, Mr Nawaz Sharif, to approve the Army trio's self-serving presentation.

In an effort to keep the plan secret, which was thought to be the key to its successful initiation, the Army trio took no one into confidence, neither its operational commanders nor the heads of the other services. This, regrettably, resulted in a closed-loop thought process which engendered a string of oversights and failures:

  • Failure to grasp the wider military and diplomatic ramifications of a limited tactical operation that had the potential of creating strategic effects.
  • Failure to correctly visualise the response of a powerful enemy to what was, in effect, a major blow in a disputed sector.
  • Failure to spell out the specific aim to field commanders, who acted on their own to needlessly 'capture' territory and expand the scope of the operation to unmanageable levels.
  • Failure to appreciate the inability of the Army officers to evaluate the capabilities and limitations of an Air Force.
  • Failure to coordinate contingency plans at the tri-services level.

The flaws in the Kargil Plan that led to these failures were almost palpable and, could not have escaped even a layman's attention during a cursory examination. The question arises as to why all the planners got blinded to the obvious? Could it be that some of the sub-ordinates had the sight but not the nerve in the face of a powerful superior? In hierarchical organisations, there is precious little room for dissent, but in autocratic ones like the military, it takes more than a spine to disagree, for there are very few commanders who are large enough to allow such liberties. It is out of fear of annoying the superior – which also carries with it manifold penalties and loss of promotion and perks – that the majority decide to go along with the wind.

In a country where democratic traditions have never been deep-rooted, it is no big exposé to point out that the military is steeped in an authoritarian, rather than a consensual approach. To my mind, there is an urgent need to inculcate a more liberal culture that accommodates different points of view – a more lateral approach, so to speak. Disagreement during planning should be systemically tolerated and, not taken as a personal affront. Unfortunately, many in higher ranks seem to think that rank alone confers wisdom and, anyone displaying signs of intelligence at an earlier stage is, somehow, an alien in their 'star-spangled' universe.

Kargil, I suspect, like the '65 and '71 Wars, was a case of not having enough dissenters ('devil's advocates', if you will) during planning, because everyone wanted to agree with the boss. That single reason, I think, was the root cause of most of the failures that were apparent right from the beginning. If this point is understood well, remedial measures towards tolerance and liberalism can follow as a matter of course. Such an organisational milieu, based on honest appraisal and fearless appeal, would be conducive to sound and sensible planning. It would also go a long way in precluding Kargil-like disasters.


Come change-over time of the Chief of Air Staff in 2001, President Musharraf struck at PAF's top leadership in what can only be described as implacable action: he passed over all five Air Marshals and appointed the sixth-in-line who was practically an Air Vice Marshal till a few weeks before. While disregarding of seniority in the appointment of service chiefs has historically been endemic in the country, the practice has been seen as breeding nepotism and partiality, besides leaving a trail of conjecture and gossip in the ranks. Given Air Chief Marshal Mehdi's rather straight-faced and forthright dealings with a somewhat junior General Musharraf particularly during Kargil conflict, there is good reason to believe that the latter decided to appoint a not-very-senior Air Chief whom he could order around like one of his Corps Commanders. (As it turned out, Air Chief Marshal Mus'haf was as solid as his predecessor and gave no quarter when it came to PAF's interests.) Whatever the reason of bypassing seniority, it was unfortunate that PAF's precious corporate experience was thrown out so crassly and several careers destroyed. Lives and honour lost in Kargil is another matter.



By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

The media wing of one of al Qaeda's Yemeni franchises, al Qaeda in Yemen, released a statement on online jihadist forums Jan. 20 from the group's leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, announcing the formation of a single al Qaeda group for the Arabian Peninsula under his command. According to al-Wuhayshi, the new group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, would consist of his former group (al Qaeda in Yemen) as well as members of the now-defunct Saudi al Qaeda franchise.

The press release noted that the Saudi militants have pledged allegiance to al-Wuhayshi, an indication that the reorganization was not a merger of equals. This is understandable, given that the jihadists in Yemen have been active recently while their Saudi counterparts have not conducted a meaningful attack in years. The announcement also related that a Saudi national (and former Guantanamo detainee) identified as Abu-Sayyaf al-Shihri has been appointed as al-Wuhayshi's deputy. In some ways, this is similar to the way Ayman al-Zawahiri and his faction of Egyptian Islamic Jihad swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and were integrated in to al Qaeda prime.

While not specifically mentioned, the announcement of a single al Qaeda entity for the entire Arabian Peninsula and the unanimous support by jihadist militants on the Arabian Peninsula for al-Wuhayshi suggests the new organization will incorporate elements of the other al Qaeda franchise in Yemen, the Yemen Soldiers Brigade.

The announcement also provided links to downloadable versions of the latest issue of the group's online magazine, Sada al-Malahim, (Arabic for "The Echo of Battle"). The Web page links provided to download the magazine also featured trailers advertising the pending release of a new video from the group, now referred to by its new name, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The translated name of this new organization sounds very similar to the old Saudi al Qaeda franchise, the al Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula (in Arabic, "Tandheem al Qaeda fi Jazeerat al-Arabiyah"). But the new group's new Arabic name, Tanzim Qa'idat al-Jihad fi Jazirat al-Arab, is slightly different. The addition of "al-Jihad" seems to have been influenced by the Iraqi al Qaeda franchise, Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn. The flag of the Islamic State of Iraq also appears in the Jan. 24 video, further illustrating the deep ties between the newly announced organization and al Qaeda in Iraq. Indeed, a number of Yemeni militants traveled to Iraq to fight, and these returning al Qaeda veterans have played a large part in the increased sophistication of militant attacks in Yemen over the past year.

Four days after the Jan. 20 announcement, links for a 19-minute video from the new group titled "We Start from Here and We Will Meet at al-Aqsa" began to appear in jihadist corners of cyberspace. Al-Aqsa refers to the al-Aqsa Mosque on what Jews know as Temple Mount and Muslims refer to as Al Haram Al Sharif. The video threatens Muslim leaders in the region (whom it refers to as criminal tyrants), including Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Saudi royal family, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. It also threatens so-called "crusader forces" supporting the regional Muslim leaders, and promises to carry the jihad from the Arabian Peninsula to Israel so as to liberate Muslim holy sites and brethren in Gaza.

An interview with al-Wuhayshi aired Jan. 27 on Al Jazeera echoed these sentiments. During the interview, al-Wuhayshi noted that the "crusades" against "Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia" have been launched from bases in the Arabian Peninsula, and that because of this, "all crusader interests" in the peninsula "should be struck."

A Different Take on Events

Most of the analysis in Western media regarding the preceding developments has focused on how two former detainees at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appear in the Jan. 24 video -- one of whom was al-Shihri -- and that both were graduates of Saudi Arabia's ideological rehabilitation program, a government deprogramming course for jihadists. In addition to al-Shihri who, according to the video was Guantanamo detainee 372, the video also contains a statement from Abu-al-Harith Muhammad al-Awfi. Al-Awfi, who was identified as a field commander in the video, was allegedly former Guantanamo detainee 333. Prisoner lists from Guantanamo obtained by Stratfor appear to confirm that al-Shihri was in fact Guantanamo detainee No. 372. We did not find al-Awfi's name on the list, however, another name appears as detainee No. 333. Given the proclivity of jihadists to use fraudulent identities, it is entirely possible that al-Awfi is an alias, or that he was held at Guantanamo unde r an assumed name. At any rate, we doubt al-Awfi would fabricate this claim and then broadcast it in such a public manner.

The media focus on the Guantanamo aspect is understandable in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama's Jan. 22 executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and all the complexities surrounding that decision. Clearly, some men released from Guantanamo, and even those graduated from the Saudi government's rehabilitation program, can and have returned to the jihadist fold. Ideology is hard to extinguish, especially an ideology that teaches adherents that there is a war against Islam and that the "true believers" will be persecuted for their beliefs. Al Qaeda has even taken this one step further and has worked to prepare its members not only to face death, but also to endure imprisonment and harsh interrogation. A substantial number of al Qaeda cadres, such as al-Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al-Libi, have endured both, and have been instrumental in helping members withstand captivity and interrogation.

This physical and ideological preparation means that efforts to induce captured militants to abandon their ideology can wind up reinforcing that ideology when those efforts appear to prove important tenets of the ideology, such as that adherents will be persecuted and that the Muslim rulers are aligned with the West. It is also important to realize that radical Islamist extremists, ultraconservatives and traditionalists tend to have a far better grasp of Islamic religious texts than their moderate, liberal and modernist counterparts. Hence, they have an edge over them on the ideological battlefield. Those opposing radicals and extremists have a long way to go before they can produce a coherent legitimate, authoritative and authentic alternative Islamic discourse.

In any event, in practical terms there is no system of "re-education" that is 100 percent effective in eradicating an ideology in humans except execution. There will always be people who will figure out how to game the system and regurgitate whatever is necessary to placate their jailers so as to win release. Because of this, it is not surprising to see people like al-Shihri and al-Awfi released only to re-emerge in their former molds.

Another remarkable feature of the Jan. 27 video is that it showcased four different leaders of the regional group, something rarely seen. In addition to al-Wuhayshi, al-Shihri and al-Awfi, the video also included a statement from Qasim al-Rami, who is suspected of having been involved with the operational planning of the suicide attack on a group of Spanish tourists in Marib, Yemen, in July 2007.

In our estimation, however, perhaps the most remarkable feature about these recent statements from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is not the appearance of these two former Guantanamo detainees in the video, or the appearance of four distinct leaders of the group in a single video, but rather what the statements tell us about the state of the al Qaeda franchises in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.


That the remnants of the Saudi al Qaeda franchise have been forced to flee their country and join up with the Yemeni group demonstrates that the Saudi government's campaign to eradicate the jihadist organization has been very successful. The Saudi franchise was very active in 2003 and 2004, but has not attempted a significant attack since the February 2006 attack against the oil facility in Abqaiq. In spite of the large number of Saudi fighters who have traveled to militant training camps, and to fight in places such as Iraq, the Saudi franchise has had significant problems organizing operational cells inside the kingdom. Additionally, since the death of Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, the Saudi franchise has struggled to find a charismatic and savvy leader. (The Saudis have killed several leaders who succeeded al-Muqrin.) In a militant organization conducting an insurgency or terrorist operations, leadership is critical not only to the operational success of the group but also to its ability to recruit new members, raise funding and acquire resources such as weapons.

Like the Saudi node, the fortunes of other al Qaeda regional franchises have risen or fallen based upon ability of the franchise's leadership. For example, in August 2006 al Qaeda announced with great fanfare that the Egyptian militant group Gamaah al-Islamiyah (GAI) had joined forces with al Qaeda. Likewise, in November 2007 al Qaeda announced that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) had formally joined the al Qaeda network. But neither of these groups really ever got off the ground. While a large portion of the responsibility for the groups' lack of success may be due to the oppressive natures of the Egyptian and Libyan governments and the aggressive efforts those governments undertook to control the new al Qaeda franchises, we believe the lack of success also stems from poor leadership. (There are certainly other significant factors contributing to the failure of al Qaeda nodes in various places, such as the alienation of the local population.)

Conversely, we believe that an important reason for the resurgence of the al Qaeda franchise in Yemen has been the leadership of al-Wuhayshi. As we have noted in the past, Yemen is a much easier environment for militants to operate in than either Egypt or Libya. There are many Salafists employed in the Yemeni security and intelligence apparatus who at the very least are sympathetic to the jihadist cause. These men are holdovers from the Yemeni civil war, when Saleh formed an alliance with Salafists and recruited jihadists to fight Marxist forces in South Yemen. This alliance continues today, with Saleh deriving significant political support from radical Islamists. Many of the state's key institutions (including the military) employ Salafists, making any major crackdown on militant Islamists in the country politically difficult. This sentiment among the security forces also helps explain the many jihadists who have escaped from Yemeni prisons -- such as al-Wuhayshi.

Yemen has also long been at the crossroads of a number of jihadist theaters, including Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Levant, Egypt and Somalia. Yemen also is a country with a thriving arms market, a desert warrior tradition and a tribal culture that often bridles against government authority and that makes it difficult for the government to assert control over large swaths of the country. Yemeni tribesmen also tend to be religiously conservative and susceptible to the influence of jihadist theology.

In spite of this favorable environment, the Yemeni al Qaeda franchise has largely floundered since 9/11. Much of this is due to U.S. and Yemeni efforts to decapitate the group, such as the strike by a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle on then-leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Abu Ali al-Harithi, in late 2002 and the subsequent arrest of his replacement, Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, in late 2003. The combination of these operations in such a short period helped cripple al Qaeda in Yemen's operational capability.

As Stratfor noted in spring 2008, however, al Qaeda militants in Yemen have become more active and more effective under the leadership of al-Wuhayshi, an ethnic Yemeni who spent time in Afghanistan as a lieutenant under bin Laden. After his time with bin Laden, Iranian authorities arrested al-Wuhayshi, later returning him to Yemen in 2003 via an Iranian-Yemeni extradition deal. He subsequently escaped from a high-security prison outside the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in February 2006 along with Jamal al-Badawi (the leader of the cell that carried out the suicide bombing of the USS Cole).

Al-Wuhayshi's established ties with al Qaeda prime and bin Laden in particular not only provide him legitimacy in the eyes of other jihadists, in more practical terms, they may have provided him the opportunity to learn the tradecraft necessary to successfully lead a militant group and conduct operations. His close ties to influential veterans of al Qaeda in Yemen like al-Badawi also may have helped him infuse new energy into the struggle in Yemen in 2008.

While the group had been on a rising trajectory in 2008, things had been eerily quiet in Yemen since the Sept. 17, 2008, attack against the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and the resulting campaign against the group. The recent flurry of statements has broken the quiet, followed by a Warden Message on Jan. 26 warning of a possible threat against the compound of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and a firefight at a security checkpoint near the embassy hours later.

At this point, it appears the shooting incident may not be related to the threat warning and may instead have been the result of jumpy nerves. Reports suggest the police may have fired at a speeding car before the occupants, who were armed tribesmen, fired back. Although there have been efforts to crack down on the carrying of weapons in Sanaa, virtually every Yemeni male owns an AK-variant assault rifle of some sort; like the ceremonial jambiya dagger, such a rifle is considered a must-have accessory in most parts of the country. Not surprisingly, incidents involving gunfire are not uncommon in Yemen.

Either way, we will continue to keep a close eye on Yemen and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. As we have seen in the past, press statements are not necessarily indicative of future jihadist performance. It will be important to watch developments in Yemen for signs that will help determine whether this recent merger and announcement is a sign of desperation by a declining group, or whether the addition of fresh blood from Saudi Arabia will help breathe new life into al-Wuhayshi's operations and provide his group the means to make good on its threats.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

Copyright 2009 Stratfor.

After 25 Years, Cornered LTTE Faces Deathly Crisis
By M.R. Narayan Swamy

New Delhi
Over a quarter century after Tamil militancy erupted in Sri Lanka, the once formidable Tamil Tigers are in dire straits, vanquished but not crushed by a rampaging military.

Less than seven years ago, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its founder leader Velupillai Prabhakaran looked like the masters of Sri Lanka's northeast after virtually bringing Colombo to its knees.

Today, in a dramatic reversal of fortunes, the Sri Lankan military has brought the very same region under its control barring a small stretch in the northeastern district of Mullaitivu.

This is where Prabhakaran, 54 and father of three, is now holed up, apparently in deep underground bunkers chiselled long ago out of hard rocks, still guarded by committed men and women ready to die for him.

But although the LTTE has declared it will fight on, there is hardly anyone outside the group who believes that its dream of carving out an independent state for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority can ever become a reality.

Tamil activists who too once shared the dream are blaming it all on Prabhakaran, a school dropout who shaped a ragtag LTTE of the 1970s into the world's most feared insurgent group.

"From when we all took to the gun for the Tamil cause, we are today not in zero but in minus," said Dharmalingam Sidharthan, a former Prabhakaran associate who broke away from him a long time ago.

"The Tigers have finished off the Tamil cause," the former MP told IANS over telephone from Colombo. "All this happened because Prabhakaran wanted to be the sole spokesman of the Tamil people and so did away with even Tamils who disagreed with him.

"After years and years of bloodshed, (Tamil) people are fed up. This is the beginning of the end for the LTTE," he said. "Even if they (Tigers) survive, they can never recapture the territory they have lost."

Agreed human rights activist Rajan Hoole: "Today the Tamils are in a bigger mess than in 1983 (when militancy began). At least we didn't have anarchy then, one could live in the northeast. Life is insecure now. The hijacking of the Tamil struggle by the LTTE was a disaster."

The LTTE was just one of five militant groups in the early 1980s. But as militancy ballooned after 1983, partly with India's covert support, the LTTE decimated other Tamil groups. It grew from strength to strength, taking on the Indian Army in Sri Lanka's northeast in 1987-90.

As the Tigers later set up a de facto Tamil state in the northeast, while at the same fighting the military, they assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa only two years later.

By then the LTTE had mastered suicide attacks. Prabhakaran became a "wanted" man in India, which in 1992 outlawed the group it once harboured. The LTTE is now banned in some 30 countries including the US.

The Norway-backed 2002 ceasefire agreement brought glory to the Tigers. But its refusal to come to any settlement added to the unraveling of the peace process by 2005-06. By then the LTTE had suffered a crippling split in the eastern province.

Tamil and other sources say that the LTTE now controls just 300 sq km of land in Mullaitivu district, a third of which are impregnable forests. It also has a presence in nearby jungles. The LTTE is still estimated to have some 2,000 guerrillas, half of whom can be called "hardcore".

Sri Lankan sources say they would have seized even the area now with the LTTE but for the presence of a large number of Tamil civilians, the greatest sufferers in the seemingly unending war.

While a much smaller LTTE took on the Indian troops about 20 years ago, long-term survival in the present scenario could be much more difficult, say Tamil sources.

Colombo's aim is to cut off all supplies to the cornered Tigers by occupying areas around the forests and choking the winding coast. Without food, medicines and new shipments of arms and ammunition, it is believed, the LTTE will have to give up.

But LTTE supporters assert they will never wave the white flag. At the same time, Sri Lanka has no desire for any further peace talks. A repeat of the guerrilla war of the 1980s seems unlikely. Amid the chaos, all eyes are again on Prabhakaran, the Jaffna man who started it all.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border
a Major Source of Instability: Hillary Clinton

By Arun Kumar

President Barack Obama's administration was quick to appoint a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan as it looks at the border areas between them as a source of instability for the two countries and far beyond their borders.

"We are engaged very vigorously in trying to assess what has been done before and what we are going to be doing," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday noting that the Bush administration had begun an ongoing review Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It had put a lot of actions in motion. "And we thought it imperative that we had a high-level representative - and in this case, Richard Holbrooke - to be guiding that process with us."

Clinton, however, declined to say whether Washington would re-look at continued missile strikes in Pakistan resulting in civil casualties even after President Obama was sworn in. "I am not prepared to talk about that."

"I think that, as I mentioned, we are looking very broadly and comprehensively at the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and along their borders," she said. "That is an area that, you know, we are following closely."

"And it will be as we move forward, certainly, a part of our assessment," Clinton said. "But there's little doubt in anyone's mind that the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan are a source of instability for Afghanistan, for Pakistan, and far beyond the borders of those two countries."

"So there will be more to report about our views as to how we're going to proceed in the future," she added.

Obama and she "thought it was important that we, as quickly as possible, set forth our policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan, because we knew we wanted to reengage vigorously from the very beginning in the Middle East," Clinton said.

The US was going to be working on a series of short-term objectives with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, she said. But "we remain committed to the long-term objective of a comprehensive peace that provides security in the context of a two-state solution for the Palestinians."

Talking about the administration's other foreign policy priorities Clinton favored a "comprehensive dialogue with China.

"The Strategic Dialogue that was begun in the Bush Administration turned into an economic dialogue, and that's a very important aspect of our relationship with China, but it is not the only aspect of our relationship," she said.

The administration was designing "a more comprehensive approach that we think will be more in keeping with the important role that China is playing and will be playing as both a regional and international player on so many important issues."

India has Key Role to Play in Afghanistan: US
By Arun Kumar

Advocating a regional approach to Afghanistan, the US defence chief has said that India has an important role to play there despite historic tensions with Pakistan accentuated by Mumbai terror attacks.

In "Afghanistan, a regional approach is critical. And it includes not just Afghanistan, but Afghanistan and Pakistan," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday at a media briefing on US National Security Strategy.

"I also believe that India plays an important role here," he said at his first media interaction after the Jan 20 inauguration of President Barack Obama. "India has taken significantly positive steps to invest in Afghanistan, has for some period of time," he noted.

"And certainly Iran, as a bordering state, plays a role as well," said Mullen suggesting "it is important to engage Iran" in a dialogue "that finds some mutual interests, there is potential there for moving ahead together."

"But I really leave that to the diplomats to lead with that dialogue."

Asked if Pakistan is concerned about India's expanding role in Afghanistan, Mullen said: "When I talk about a regional approach, I include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran as well as India.

"And I think the regional countries in there have a very significant stake in stability and in outcomes which are positive, in that region, as opposed to those that might go in the other direction."

"So I think the strategic leadership and views, opinions and support provided, by India, will be very clear," Mullen said noting, "India has taken significantly positive steps to invest in Afghanistan, has for some period of time."

"And yet there's certainly a historic tension that's there, between Pakistan and India, obviously accentuated greatly as a result of the Mumbai attacks," Mullen said.

But he was comforted that the strategic leadership, in both Pakistan and India, has been such that any kind of conflict did not break after Mumbai attacks, blamed on Pakistan-based terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

And I think continuing in that direction, in the future, is very important, as we resolve that particular-the Mumbai attacks, I think, properly as opposed to getting in any kind of conflict.

So each country has got significant stakes in the region. And I think it's the joint contribution of all those countries, which would help us move- which could help us move forward in a positive way.

In reply to a question about military-to-military relationship with Pakistan, Mullen said he had "a very strong relationship" with Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, as also Admiral Sureesh Mehta, chairman of India's Chiefs of Staff Committee.

"So my relations are not just limited to Pakistan," he said adding, Kayani has "got some huge challenges, as does Admiral Mehta in India. I mean, we all have huge challenges."

'Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2010'

PTI | January 28, 2009 | 13:00 IST

Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2010, a leading international think-tank has warned. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Iran will amass enough low-enriched uranium this year which could put it on course to build a nuke weapon by the end of the next year, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"This year, it's very likely that Iran will have produced enough low-enriched uranium which, if further enriched, could constitute enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon, if that is the route Iran so desires," IISS's senior fellow for non-proliferation Mark Fitzpatrick said.

However, according to the institute based in Britain, scientists in Iran would have to overcome numerous hurdles and fully master the enrichment of uranium before this can finally take place by 2010.

Iran is defying five United Nations Resolutions by enriching uranium inside an underground plant at Natanz. This process is highly sensitive because it amounts to dual use technology.

If the country goes to the next stage and chooses to produce weapons-grade uranium, however, it would have to expel the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors who presently monitor its plants.

And, to have a proper weapons system, Iran will need to build missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead too.

US President Barack Obama has already pledged to engage directly with Iran's leaders and seek a diplomatic solution to the nuclear confrontation.

"If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," Obama has said.

Resolving Kashmir issue in US interest: Think tank

PTI | January 28, 2009 | 10:41 IST

It is in America's interest to see that the Kashmir issue is resolved but the country can only encourage India and Pakistan to work towards a solution, a senior Democrat and head of a prestigious US-based think tank has said.

Lee Hamilton, vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission and now president of the prestigious Washington-based think tank, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, has argued it is in US's interest to resolve the Kashmir issue, which he said would require tough diplomacy.

Appearing on the popular Charlie Rose show on PBS channel, Hamilton, however, said the US cannot resolve the issue and can only encourage both the countries to do so.

"We certainly need to work with Pakistan and India to resolve the Kashmir problem. The United States can't resolve that, but we can encourage the two parties to address it," Hamilton said.

A Democrat, Hamilton served in the US House of Representatives for as many as 34 years.

"If the Pakistanis continue to move troops from the Afghanistan border towards Kashmir, as they recently did with a portion of their troops, that's going to make the matters more difficult for American interests in Afghanistan, because we reduced the Pakistani effort to control those tribal areas," Hamilton said, referring to the troop movement in the wake of tension between the two countries after the Mumbai terrorist attack.

In recent years, the US has resisted from engaging itself from any effort to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

"So we have to help them (Pakistan) there (in Kashmir). This is going to take some very tough, difficult diplomacy, and it will take a good bit of time to resolve it," Hamilton said.

POLITICS-US: Top Defence Chiefs Vow Focus on Afghanistan
By Ali Gharib

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (IPS) - Both the top civilian and military leadership of the U.S. Department of Defence had busy days on Tuesday, fielding topically varied questions on their new policy priorities since President Barack Obama took office one week ago.

As Obama has long promised, moving Afghanistan to the top of the agenda was a main focus of Pentagon chief Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.

Mullen, the top uniformed adviser to the country's civilian leadership, said that the military was working hard at putting together a "new strategy for the way forward in Afghanistan".

"I think the top priority for us right now is Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I think President Obama has made that clear," he told reporters during a briefing at the Department of State Foreign Press Centre here.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Gates, the sole cabinet-level holdover from the era of President George W. Bush, was singing the same tune in his first appearance before the Senate Armed Services committee as part of the Obama administration.

"There is little doubt that our greatest military challenge right now is Afghanistan," he said. "President Obama has made it clear that the Afghanistan theatre should be our top overseas military priority."

Both men spoke of a regional and multifaceted solution to the war.

In his answers to questions, Mullen said that Obama has asked that the new strategy be "appropriately inclusive of our relationship with Pakistan as well as other nations in the region."

Mullen spoke of his close relationship with Pakistani army chief General Asfaq Kayani, and alluded to improved anti-terror cooperation since last year's political turmoil that resulted in the civilian coalition government led by pro-Western president Asif Ali Zardari, who has vowed to combat terror and extremism.

But Mullen also said that India and Iran could play beneficial roles in Afghanistan. The involvement of the former, he acknowledged, could create some tensions with their historic foe, Pakistan, which both viewed as essential to quelling violence in Afghanistan itself.

While Mullen would not comment on U.S. airstrikes at terror targets across the Pakistani border - a strategy that has caused resentment in Pakistan - Gates noted that the policy was one that had remained in place across both sides of the presidential transition and that the strikes would continue.

Mullen also emphasised the importance of Iran, which shares a large border with Afghanistan, as a regional partner whom he acknowledged presented some problems, though there was nonetheless "potential there for moving ahead together".

"I have said for many, many, months I think... it is important to engage Iran," he said. "Iran is unhelpful in many, many ways in many, many areas. And so I wouldn't be overly optimistic at this point. But there are mutual interests and I think that that might offer some possibilities."

Mullen also repeated the military goal of exploring new supply routes to Afghanistan, which are reportedly likely to come, with Russian cooperation, through former Soviet Central Asian republics.

The main U.S. supply route, from Pakistan through the Khyber Pass, has become dangerous because of regular Taliban raids on convoys, but with Afghanistan slowing down for the winter, the precise nature of the path won't be known until next spring's thaw.

"[S]ecurity is best achieved through and with the Afghan people with them in the lead, them ultimately in control," said Mullen.

Gates also noted the advantage of not having a U.S. solder knocking down doors, and instead, like Mullen, emphasised the importance of putting an "Afghan face" on the war effort.

Mullen said he is hopeful Obama would ask NATO allies to contribute more both in terms of troops on the ground and pledges of development aid.

"So I think that we need...a fully integrated civilian-military strategy. We need to, I think, have modest, realistic goals," Gates said.

Gates mentioned the possibility for economic development in Afghanistan, and Mullen praised increased non-military aid to Pakistan under a multi-year agreement, which he said was essential because of the U.S. history of "turn[ing] our backs on Pakistan".

The military aspect of the renewed effort to stabilise Afghanistan may carry political consequences at home, however, especially the stark terms in which Gates acknowledged the potential for becoming bogged down in a country he acknowledged was known as the "graveyard of empires".

Gates said there was "no purely military solution" to the U.S. and NATO's more than seven-year effort in Afghanistan, but also acknowledged that more troops will be needed to "provide a baseline level of security in some of the most dangerous areas - a vacuum that increasingly has been filled by the Taliban [insurgency]."

He also said, borrowing a phrase from the ranking Republican on the Senate committee, John McCain, that the war would be a "long slog" and that it was likely that with a beefed-up U.S. troop presence, the costs in blood and treasure were "likely" to increase.

In light of those considerations, Gates emphasised that the U.S. needed to be "careful" of goals it set for itself.

"My own personal view is that our primary goal is to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists and extremists to attack the United States and our allies," he said. "And whatever else we need to do flows from that objective."

"[I]f we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there," he said, "we will lose, because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience and money, to be honest... [I]t seems to me that we need to keep our objectives realistic and limited in Afghanistan; otherwise, we will set ourselves up for failure."

SAAB Opens Office in New Delhi; Jan Widerstrom Shares Long Term Vision

With the field trials for the proposed 126 aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) set to commence in April-May, Swedish arms manufacturer SAAB which is one of the six in the race with its Gripen aircraft today opened an office in the Capital as part of its "efforts to market products for defence and civil security in the Indian market".

Senior company officials pitched for the Gripen aircraft, saying it was "one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in its category, as also one of the contenders for the IAF Medium Range Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme. Gripen is the world's most technologically advanced multi-role fighter aircraft with futuristic warfare technologies."

Addressing reporters here, the country head and vice-president of SAAB International, Mr Jan Widerstrom, said that for his company, India was a key market and therefore it was making long-term commitments. "We are offering our high tech portfolio to the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy. We will be further enhancing our presence to ensure full support to our customers. SAAB is actively looking for long-term cooperation with Indian government and private industries," Mr Widerstrom said.

In December 2008, SAAB had bagged a contract to deliver Integrated Defensive Aids Suite for HAL's Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter project.

Russia, India Meet to Finalize INS Vikramaditya Price Negotiations

Dated 27/1/2009

Indian team consisting of four officials has left for Russia to conclude the INS Vikramaditya price negotiations newspapers reported on Monday. The team will work on fixing a final price for the aircraft carrier, being refitted by the Russians.

There will be a final round of talks at the Defence Secretary-level, so the upcoming meeting is said to be a precursor to the final talks, authoritative sources in the Defence Ministry said.

The visit comes on the heels of a four-day meeting in New Delhi last week between officials of both sides. India signed the deal in 2004 at an originally contracted price of $1.5 billion. However, Russia now asks for an additional $2 billion for the refitting.

Delivery of the aircraft carrier was due in 2008. Now the revised schedule is expected to be 2012. It would be any time from one year to 18 months before the carrier was ready for sea tests, the sources said.

Fresh impetus
Negotiations on the deal have gained a fresh impetus after the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to India last December. During the visit, it was indicated that the Russian side would like to wrap up price re-negotiation over the next three months. The modernisation bill for the 44,570-tonne Gorshkov was underestimated at the time the deal was finalised during the National Democratic Alliance government.

The aircraft carrier is scheduled to replace India's sole ageing aircraft carrier, INS Viraat.

U.S.–India Strategic Partnership on Laser-Based Missile Defense

by Lisa Curtis and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

WebMemo #2250

Last week, the Press Trust of India reported that defense officials intend to produce a laser capable of shooting down enemy ballistic missiles. The United States is a global leader in directed-energy defenses, including both low and high-powered lasers. American military research is also highly advanced in the technologies of acquiring targets as well as the command, control, and battle management systems necessary to identify and direct weapons to destroy missiles and other targets. In recent years, the United States and India have increased bilateral cooperation in a range of defense, counterterrorism, and homeland security areas. This cooperation is helping increase trust and confidence between the two nations while fostering security, stability, and prosperity in Asia. Working together on directed-energy developments offers a significant opportunity to strengthen the U.S.-India strategic partnership.

India Goes to Light Speed

The United States and India share many security concerns, such as the threat of ballistic missiles. V. K. Saraswat of the Defense Research and Development Organization rightly told the Press Times of India: "If you have a laser-based system on an airborne or seaborne platform, it can travel at the speed of light and in a few seconds, [and] we can kill a ballistic missile coming towards [India]." India's interest in developing directed energy defenses is understandable, as lasers have several distinct advantages. Such weapons:

  • Can use a high-powered beam of energy to disable electrical components or detonate explosives, rendering the attack means such as the warhead or body of a missile useless;
  • Come with an almost infinite magazine--as long as the weapons have power, they can be recharged and fired again;
  • Can be aimed effectively using existing target acquisition systems (such as radars) and command and control systems (such as a computer battle management network); and
  • Can be employed with a minimum of risk toward surrounding civilians, buildings, or vehicles (such as aircraft, cars, and ships).

In addition, lasers are versatile. While high-powered lasers address ballistic missile threats, low-powered lasers have a number of potential security uses, from disabling small boats to downing shoulder-fired missiles to intercepting rockets and mortars. All these uses have application to Indian security concerns.

It is also worth noting that missile defenses, such as high-powered lasers, limit the potential for regional conflict. Missile defenses serve as important deterrents, undermining the effectiveness of enemy threats. They also provide an alternative to massive retaliation in the face of an actual attack. The security provided by missile defenses actually limits the likelihood of armed escalation or an arms race and makes diplomacy more effective. It is no coincidence that the greatest strides in reducing the nuclear arsenals came in the late 1980s, at the same time the U.S. was pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative. A world with effective missile defenses is safer and more stable.

American Arsenal

The United States has significant research and development capabilities regarding the application of lasers for national security uses. The Tactical High-Energy Laser (THEL) is one such experimental system tested by the U.S. Army. Development of the THEL began in 1996 as a joint program between the United States and Israel to develop a laser system capable of shooting down Katyusha rockets, artillery, and mortar shells. The THEL system uses radar to detect and track incoming targets. This information is then transferred to an optical tracking system, which refines the target tracking and positions the beam director. The deuterium fluoride chemical laser then fires, hitting the rocket or shell and causing it to explode far short of its intended target. More recently, the Army has experimented with low-power commercial solid-state lasers.

Another system under development in the United States is the Airborne Laser (ABL). The ABL is a system that uses a megawatt chemical laser mounted on a modified Boeing 747 to shoot down theater ballistic missiles. The megawatt-class laser was first successfully tested at full power in early 2006. The system is still under development.

A Shared Security Interest

The American record of military laser research and its many cooperative ventures with friendly and allied powers suggests that a joint U.S.-Indian directed energy program is certainly achievable. The shared interests of both nations in promoting security and stability in Asia also indicates they have a common cause in developing military technologies that would lessen the potential for conflict while effectively countering terrorism. The U.S. should explore opportunities for joint development of cutting edge directed energy technologies--lasers--with India as part of overall missile defense dialogue and deepening of military-to-military ties.

Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow in the Asian Studies Center, and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research Fellow in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

Global cos vie for Indian defence deals
29 Jan 2009, 0447 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit, TNN

NEW DELHI: Murky it certainly is, but it seems there is no business like arms business . With India projected to spend well over $30 billion for

procuring military hardware and software over the next fourfive years, global armament giants are vying to grab a piece of the lucrative action.

The government's decision to fasttrack deals after 26/11 to plug gaps in the operational capabilities of army, navy, IAF and coast guard has only whetted their appetite.

There will be over 300 foreign companies from countries like the US, Russia, France, Israel, the UK, Sweden and the like, as well as over 200 Indian firms, which will hawk their wares during Aero India-2009 in Bangalore, said defence ministry officials on Wednesday.

International aviation majors ranging from Boeing, Sikorsky, EADS and BAE Systems to MiG-Sukhoi, Embraer, Bombardier and SAAB will all be there during the show from February 11 to 15.

The focus will be on fighters, aircraft, helicopters, UAVs and radars. If the IAF has the huge $10.4-billion project to acquire 126 multi-role combat aircraft, with the six contenders preparing for trials in April-May, the army, navy and coast guard too want to bolster their own air wings.

Take, for intance, navy. After the ministry inked the $2.1-billion contract for eight Boeing P-8 i long-range maritime jets on January 1, the deals for 29 more Russian MiG-29 Ks for Rs 5,380 crore, five Kamov-31 copters for Rs 1,377 crore and two Israeli Heron UAVs for Rs 386 crore are now ready.

Navy is also hunting for six to eight medium-range reconnaissance planes, each worth Rs 270-300 crore, and 16 multi-role helicopters with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, each costing Rs 110 crore.

82-yr-old woman donates organs

29 Jan 2009, 0212 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: Even at her death bed, 82-year-old Gyanant Kaur did not forget the lessons of kindness and sharing she learnt way back in school. She became one of the oldest woman in India to donate her organs after her death. Widow of an honorary lieutenant in the Indian Army, Late Tarlok Singh, Gyanant had been admitted at the Army Hospital (research and referral) for sometime now and had expressed her desire to donate her eyes and liver to needy patients after her death.

On Tuesday, she breathed her last at the hospital and as instructed, her family gave their consent for retrieving her organs after her death, said a defence ministry official. This is the the third multiple organ donation at the hospital this year and the 18th since the organ donation program started in the armed forces in April 2007.

Gyanant's liver was donated to a serving army officer who is undergoing treatment for a terminal illness due to which his liver has stopped functioning. Her eyes were donated to two visually challenged patients in the hospital who had suffered severe damage to their corneas. Doctors at the hospital expressed happiness because Gyanant's donation had become an example to other patients. "Her family was very supportive of her decision and said that this way, she could live through the people who receive her organs,'' said a doctor at Army Hospital.

The Armed Forces Organ Retrieval and Transplantation Authority started the organ donation programme in 2007 and over 3,000 armed forces personnel have already pledged their organs for donation in the event of a comatose vegetative state or brain dead. The authority has also been organising regular awareness programmes to encourage more people to donate their organs after their death so that they can be used to treat others' ailments.

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