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Monday, 16 February 2009

From Today's Papers - 16 Feb 09

Pakistan under pressure
Containing jihadis a complex task
by K. Subrahmanyam

THE continuous flow of flip-flop statements from Pakistan over the last one month on the Mumbai terroristc attack finally ended in the somewhat unexpected announcement of admission that the plot for the attack was at least partially hatched in Pakistan by many of Pakistani citizenship, and most of the facts in the Indian dossier were unchallengeable. Some statements, which came along with this basic admission, were bizarre and could be ignored. Internet facilities spread over a number of countries being used or equipment being purchased from a number of countries do not necessarily make the conspiracy an international one.

There is silence on the training of the terrorists and their ideological affiliations. Pakistan has understandably a number of queries for India --- 30 in number. This was also to be expected. Historically speaking, only one country, Libya, after some 12 years of intense international pressure had to concede that the Lockerbie airliner explosion might have been carried out by two of its citizens and handed them over for trial to the country where the explosion took place --- Scotland. A bit of territory in the Netherlands was temporarily used, and the two Libyans were tried there by Scottish judges under the Scottish law.

This development needs to be reminded to the rest of the world at this time because even British Foreign Secretary Miliband and the Indian journalists who quizzed him on the issue of venue of trial for the Mumbai terrorist outrage overlooked this precedent.

In spite of all its shortcomings and justified pressure on Pakistan to follow up on their initial findings to its logical conclusion, there is no denying that the Pakistani admission that its citizens using its territory committed the terrorist aggression against India is a break from the past which was one of blank denial. That this admission did not come about easily but happened after a long internal struggle can be inferred from the number of disinformation statements which appeared regularly in the Pakistani media since January 5 when the Indian dossier was handed over to them. It was alleged that conspiracy was not hatched on Pakistani soil, but in Europe and other countries. Ajmal Qasab’s citizenship was denied even after local and foreign media had exposed it. Why, after all those attempts, did Pakistan come out with a clear admission on the issue?

On February 11 President Barack Obama put in his first telephone call to President Asif Zardari and, according to Pakistani official sources, discussed the war on terrorism. One Pakistani paper, has speculated on the unusual call of the US President to Mr Zardari even as his Special Representative Richard Holbrooke was in Islamabad. Though the Pakistani paper had not gone beyond raising the issue, it is a legitimate line of speculation whether the presidential call was the result of the Special Representative reporting that he had reached a dead end in persuading the Pakistanis to accept the conclusions reached by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) team which visited Pakistan after completing its investigations in India with full cooperation of Indian agencies.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi publicly gloated over his assertion that the issue of 26/11 had not even been raised by Mr Holbrooke in his discussions with him. It is obvious that till the admission of Pakistanis conspiring on Pakistani soil was revealed by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, significant sections of the Pakistani establishment were in total denial mode. Earlier, there was speculation of a rift between President Zardari, heading the pragmatists, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, leading the hardliners, and that resulting in the sacking of National Security Adviser Mohammed Durrani, who belonged to the Zardari camp.

The two camps appear to be divided on the approach to the future development of Pakistan and its policy towards India. The camp supporting the Army, an expansionist foreign policy with Afghanistan as strategic depth, a nuclear Pakistan as the leader of the Islamic world and bleeding India through a thousand cuts hopes to continue with the past strategy. They are of the view that US needs them to fight the Afghan war and they can continue to take the US for a ride as Gen Pervez Musharraf did during the last seven years.

The other camp is more realistic about the changes in US perceptions and the US readiness to go ahead without Pakistani help if necessary. Washington is also aware that Pakistani dependence on the US is too much to permit the Pakistani hardliners to continue with their past policy. The hardliners have been lying to their own populations about their dependence. While the Pakistan government issues formal statements condemning the US drone attacks, they have not told their people that the Pakistan government has permitted the drones to operate from Pakistani bases. They have not told their people that Pakistan needs another $4.6 billion loan and in spite of their boasts of China’s friendship and China having $1.9 trillion surplus, they have to approach the International Monetary Fund.

In his latest testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the US Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said, “Pakistan’s law and order situation is dismal, affecting even Pakistani elites, and violence between various sectarian, ethnic and other groups threatens to escalate”. He stressed that no improvement in the security of Afghanistan is possible without progress in the control of the Pakistani border areas and improving governance.

Mr Zardari and his supporters realise that the war is no longer an American war but one for the survival of Pakistan. It is no longer possible for the Pakistan Army and the hardliners to continue to blackmail Washington on the basis of the US need for Pakistan. In these circumstances the Pakistani Army and hardliners have played their last card, threat of nuclear proliferation to the state and non-state actors. That is the message they have sent through the total repudiation of A.Q. Khan’s responsibility for past proliferation.

In such circumstances, India and the US have to collaborate to formulate a strategy to support the pragmatists in Pakistan and contain the Army and the jihadi hardliners. One must expect the jihadis and their supporters in Pakistani Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence wing to attempt to provoke India in various ways, including acts of terrorism. US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Muellen has pointed out that the Pakistan Army and the ISI function in a delegated framework to enable them to have plausible deniability.

The containment of Pakistni jihadis is an exceedingly complex task. It cannot be successfully pursued unless the US security establishment at middle levels changes its mindset and works with India as a strategic partner in this war against religious extremism. Their past cronyism vis-à-vis the Pakistan Army enabled Islamabad to acquire nuclear weapons and condition large sections of their population towards jihadism. The Holbrooke visit provides an opportunity for the Indian side to assess how far the Obama administration has moved towards coming to grips with the realities in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.

Aero India 2009
F-16 tyre bursts on landing

Bangalore, February 15
The pilot of a F-16 Super Viper had a miraculous escape when the front tyre of the combat aircraft burst while landing after an aerobatics display on the fifth and final day of the Aero India 2009 here this afternoon.

Sources said the US pilot was unhurt. He tactfully brought the twin-seater fourth-generation jet fighter, manufactured by US giant Lockheed Martin, to a safe halt.

Incidentally, Abhinav Bindra had flown in the same aircraft belonging to the United Arab Emirates’ Air Force, which was leased by the manufacturer and brought to the Yelahanka Air Station, the venue of the air show on February 12, for the aerobatic display.

Fire fighters, ambulance and IAF disaster management officials rushed to the aircraft, which was stranded on the runway. The aircraft was towed away after some time and the aerial display resumed soon.

Meanwhile, curtains came down on the biennial Aero India-2009, South Asia’s biggest air show jointly organised by the Ministry of Defence and CII, after five days of thrilling aero display.

For the first time in the brief history of the biennial premier air show, China was among the 25 participating countries. Defence ministers from eight countries had converged for the show, while high-level delegations from 40 countries witnessed the event, a MoD spokesperson said.

This prompted the ministry to put in place an unprecedented security cover involving more than 7,000 security personnel. This also comes in the wake of the 26/11 terror strikes.

Nearly 600 exhibitors, including 303 foreign participants and 292 from within India, took part in the event.

On display were about 30 aircraft led by frontline fighter aircraft such as American F-16 and F-18, Russian MiG-35D, Eurofighter, India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, British Advanced Jet Trainer Hawk, besides Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s Dhruv helicopters.

The last two days, which were open for public, witnessed a huge turn out with more than one lakh visitors thronging the air base to witness the breathtaking displays on the final day today.

Over 50,000 business visitors had visited the show during the first three days, while the CII had arranged VC funding of Rs 750 crore to the SME sector, he said. — UNI

US envoy Holbrooke arrives in India

Press Trust of India

Sunday, February 15, 2009, (New Delhi)

US special envoy Richard Holbrooke arrived in New Delhi on Sunday night on a visit that will provide India the first opportunity to give its assessment to the Obama administration about the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan in the backdrop of Mumbai attacks.

Holbrooke, envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, will meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan on Monday. The special envoy, who visited Pakistan and was in Afghanistan, has come to "listen" to what India has to say on the situation in the region.

In the backdrop of the Mumbai attacks, the Indian side is expected to apprise him about how terrorism emanating from Pakistan is posing a threat, not only to the region, but to the entire world.

The Indian side is expected to share evidence regarding the Mumbai attacks and discuss other aspects related to it. Through Holbrooke, India is expected to impress upon the US to do much more to ensure Pakistan acts in a determined manner to uproot the nursery of terrorism existing there.

India also wants the US to suspend military aid to Pakistan as it is not being used for the purpose intended.

Holbrooke is visiting the region to study the latest situation to enable Washington to shape its policy towards these two countries.

Israel overtakes Russia as main defense supplier to India

Press Trust of India

Sunday, February 15, 2009, (Jerusalem)

Israel has emerged as India's largest defence supplier, overtaking Russia, as Tel Aviv has signed defence deals worth a whopping $9 billion with New Delhi during the past decade, a media report in Jerusalem said on Sunday.

"There is close cooperation and the Indians respect Israeli systems and our experience in fighting terror," a defence official was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post. Russia had averaged sales of $ 875 million annually to India for the past 40 years.

In the wake of recent Mumbai terror attacks, India has also purchased from the Jewish state the aerostat radar system to help defend the country's coastline in a deal valued at $600 million, the daily said.

The radars will be deployed in strategic points to provide advance warning against incoming enemy aircraft and missiles, the report said.

The EL/M-2083 Aerostat radars are a simpler version of the Green Pine radar, made by Israel Aerospace Industries, and used by the Arrow missile defence system.

The phased-array radars are mounted on blimp-like balloons tethered to the ground and capable of detecting intrusions earlier than ground based radar systems.

US army beckons Indians in US who know Hindi and Tamil

Press Trust of India

Sunday, February 15, 2009, (New York)

The US military, stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, will recruit about 550 temporary immigrants, including those from India who know Hindi and Tamil, offering them a golden chance to become US citizens in as little as six months.

The pilot programme, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for a minimum of two years, The New York Times reported quoting military officials familiar with the plan.

The Army's one-year pilot programme will begin in New York City to recruit about 550 temporary immigrants who speak one or more of 35 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Igbo (a tongue spoken in Nigeria), Kurdish, Nepalese, Pashto, Russian and Tamil. Spanish speakers are not eligible. It will also include about 300 medical professionals to be recruited nationwide. Recruiting will start after Department of Homeland Security officials update an immigration rule in coming days.

Immigrants who are permanent residents, with documents commonly known as green cards, have long been eligible to enlist.

Recruiters expect that the temporary immigrants will have more education, foreign language skills and professional expertise than many Americans who enlist, helping the military to fill shortages in medical care, language interpretation and field intelligence analysis.

Holbrooke Visit
India wants US to keep up pressure on Pak
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
India will impress on Washington the need to relentlessly apply pressure on Pakistan to force it to do more to combat terrorism emanating from its soil during discussions with Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, here tomorrow.

On the eve of Holbrooke's arrival here, New Delhi was confident that the Kashmir issue would not figure formally or informally during talks with the visiting dignitary.

India earlier had apprehensions about the Barack Obama administration trying to play an interventionist role in the Kashmir issue when it announced Holbrooke's appointment. However, Washington subsequently clarified that Kashmir is not in the mandate of Holbrooke, giving a sigh of relief to officials at the foreign office here.

Jaisalmer bombing: IAF team visits site, denies role

16 Feb 2009, 0349 hrs IST, Vimal Bhatia, TNN

JAISALMER: An Indian Air Force team visited Jaisalmer's Mohangarh village on Sunday to inspect the spot where a fighter jet had allegedly dropped a bomb two days ago.

The six-member team, headed by a wing commander, inspected the remains of the bomb and the crater it had created but failed to figure out the explosive's nature and origin.

Gandhinagar-based IAF PRO S Menon said, "The high-power IAF committee from Jaisalmer went on a fact-finding mission to the place where a bomb had reportedly exploded. But the ground zero report indicates that it might not have been caused due to a bomb dropped from a fighter plane.''

He said aluminium parts were recovered from the site while as IAF bombs are mostly made of iron. "Also the crater has a depth of 2-feet and width of 5-8 feet. But the bombs dropped from a fighter plane create much bigger craters,'' he said.

The Army has also denied any connection with the explosion. An officer said the Army's Lathi field firing range was more than 40-km away from the site, ruling out the possibility of the explosive being an artillery shell. Defence Research and Development Organisation, which has been reportedly testing its projectiles in the area, has also denied its role.

Locals maintain that a misguided bomb from the nearby Changadh firing range could have caused the explosion, which the IAF has also rubbished.

Dost Ali, a local resident, who had filed an FIR claiming that an IAF fighter had dropped the bomb on his village, said sound of jets flying past his house followed the explosion. "I shiver every time I hear the sound of jets which frequently hover the skies of my village,'' he said.

Another villager, Talab Khan, said had there been people near the bombing site, the damage would have been much more devastating.

Ali claimed that the bomb destroyed five bighas of his farm and caused partial damage to his house, about 60-km from the India-Pakistan border.

What’s happening?

It was a bombshell, that stunning statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the US Senate intelligence committee. The drones, which attack, kill and wound our tribal compatriots, she said, operate from bases in Pakistan itself. More resounding was nevertheless the deafening silence of our own horses. People anxiously waited throughout the day for a clarification from them. None came out with it; neither any government spokesman nor the military’s. Their dinful silence was broken only by two drone attacks in South Waziristan, killing at least 29 people. Of them, statedly 15 were Uzbek and Afghan militants. But who knows? Independent confirmation is had to get from a region not quite accessible even to officials, leave alone journalists. Only the divine powers know how could Pakistani intelligence ghosts vouchsafe for such claims’ veracity instantly. But why was the Islamabad establishment so puritanically on a silence fast? Is it that it had a skeleton in the cupboard and was caught red-handed? Or, is it that it was desperately imploring the American lords to bail it out from its predicament? But of what avail was it? The Pentagon spokesman sought out a safe sail. Had never heard of it, was his evasive reply when quizzed on the scam. But how could he? The drones are operated here by the CIA, which doesn’t necessarily keep Pentagon, or for that matter any other American official department and agency aboard its clandestine, not infrequently criminal, activities. And this spy agency didn’t oblige the Islamabad horses: it planted no rebuttal or clarification in the “friendly” American media, as is its wont. And a minion of Senator Feinstein’s office simply stated that her comment was based on previous news reports that drones operate from a base near Islamabad. Can you believe it that a senator chairing the world’s sole superpower’s powerful intelligence committee would be talking on the basis of news reports? At least, we have never come across any such report; all we knew was what the Islamabad horses had told throughout that these drones operate from bases in Afghanistan. Ludicrously enough, it was our embassy in Washington that issued a denial. Why was it that Washington, not Islamabad, was chosen for this clarification? Why this shyness? The people wanted to hear of it from the horses’ mouths in Islamabad? Is it that the reality is too hideous for them to confess, or what? Had the horses been lying, duping and misleading their own people all along? Indeed, what now to make of even our air chief’s oft-repeated assertion that his force has all the capability to intercept intruding drones and needs only an order to this effect from the political leadership? The people are aghast and livid. Has anybody in the Islamabad establishment an idea of what has its silence cost it to its image and credibility, a loss that it will be unable to recoup now even with a belated clarification? When dictator Musharraf was ruling the roost, the people were convinced from one to all that he had an understanding with the Americans that their drones could come and attack and that he would protest for public consumption and they were to keep quiet. His protestations never believed by an enraged public. Nor would the incumbent leadership’s; particularly so, as the US media have reported many a time that President Zardari has reached a similar understanding with the Americans. Won’t this silence of Islamabad horses corroborate those reports to be bought by our people now far more readily, plausibly and enormously? Does it occur to anyone in Islamabad what will this silence do, as well, to a huge lot of rumours and speculations making the rounds of the grapevine over these days feverishly? As for one, that the Americans have built up an airstrip in a remoter part of our tribal region; that they have built hangars and billets in the region near an encampment of our military, as for another; that the American private security agency Blackwater, kicked out from Iraq for killing of innocent civilians by its trigger-happy guards, has set up its tent in our tribal region and has launched into clandestine operations, as for yet another. The Islamabad horses may not be unknowing of these tales. Their eyes and ears must have told them. Yet they are keeping their mouths shut, not telling if these stories are true or false. What’s happening? Why are they keeping their own people in the dark, not to mention joining hands with the aliens in their bloodbaths?

Army returns to an old tactic to defeat resurgent Taliban: sniping

As concern mounts over the number of civilian casualties caused by air strikes in Afghanistan, the army is switching tactics. Mark Townsend visits the marksmen about to be deployed on the front line and asks them about the psychology of killing

In the moments before he pulls the trigger, Dean has learnt to switch off. No longer does the 28-year-old sniper register the close-up face caught in the centre of his crosshairs. "It's about getting into your bubble, focusing on the act until it becomes automatic, repetitive. You concentrate only on the shot," said the Coldstream Guards colour sergeant. Like all army snipers, Dean does not disclose his surname for fear of his family becoming a target for home-grown extremists. Within modern warfare and its array of laser-guided missiles and smart bombs, only men like Dean regularly see their victims at the point of death.

Snipers are playing an increasingly important role in Helmand province in Afghanistan where 8,100 British soldiers are stationed. Scores of Taliban have been shot dead. One sniper alone is reported to have killed 39 of the enemy. Dean, who spent six months in Helmand last year, would not talk about his "kill tally", but admitted that colleagues routinely accounted for "handfuls" of the enemy.

Snipers are becoming an increasingly valued weapon in the desert of Helmand. "We're starting to see a definite renaissance of sniping," said Frank, a captain and commanding officer of the sniper division at the Land Warfare Centre in Wiltshire.

Sniping's tactical comeback is facilitated by mounting concern over the number of civilian casualties in southern Afghanistan caused by air strikes. Fears over the risk of collateral damage from jets are bolstered by field reports indicating that snipers are the military's most cost-effective, discriminating fighting machine in Helmand.

A report by Civic - the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict - will this week corroborate concern over collateral damage by confirming a record death toll of Afghan civilians last year. However, Civic's Sarah Holewinski said they had no evidence or reports of British snipers mistakenly targeting innocent Afghans and hoped that the "planning going into sniper use remains thorough and sound".

At the Wiltshire training base, courses are heavily oversubscribed. More than 240 soldiers are vying to be selected for the 120 places a year. In Helmand itself there are 25 snipers seeking to engage "high-value targets" such as Taliban commanders or individuals identified as linked to al-Qaida. The armed forces have 330 trained snipers at present, more than double the total during the 1990s, when sniping was wound down.

Sniping is a form of psychological warfare. Shots from an invisible source can, according to the Ministry of Defence, induce terror in advancing forces; even tank commanders cower inside from an unseen but precise foe. Yet the real mental duel is contested within the sniper's mind. Its practitioners know that, when they squeeze the trigger, the object of their concentration will die.

Frank looks for recruits whose minds are sufficiently robust to concentrate on their mission rather than the human being within their sights. "It is one thing to kill in the heat of the battle when the blood's up, but it's quite another when you have a lot of time to think," he said. "You need to get the right man for the job in case he hesitates or is going to suffer problems down the line."

A calm, composed disposition is a prerequisite. As is patience: snipers can spend hours motionless as they wait for the optimum time to strike. Psychological profiling remains critical in selecting the right candidates; any detection of mental fragility and they are out, says Frank.

The act of shooting itself is a lesson in deliberation. The body must be perfectly still, the breathing controlled. Last week Dean targeted a "simulated head" 400m away across a snow-smothered Wiltshire field. Through the scope of his LII5A3 sniper rifle, the head's two-dimensional features were as clear as if it were sited across a room. Steadily Dean positioned the target into the centre of the mildot reticule, its crosshairs. The headshot is preferable and invariably fatal. But to shoot a bullet in the heat of Afghanistan, first a sniper must ascertain the wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure and humidity at the target.

Many snipers hail from farming communities, men who developed an early interest in hunting and creeping after prey undetected. "It's about stalking; we are looking for that natural hunting ability, looking for a cut above the rest," said Frank.

Snipers must also be comfortable in their own company for days on end as they operate undercover behind Taliban lines. The enemy cannot be allowed to identify their position. It is one thing to kill, but to kill again snipers must be able to retreat without enemy forces pinpointing them.

But, above all, Frank's team must train a sniper to obliterate all distractions; training is deliberately repetitive to make sniping an instinctive process. Any potential psychological effects are addressed at post-operation debriefs under the specialised risk management scheme with help specially tailored to address the unique strains of sniping. Its effectiveness is unknown; there are no data available to measure whether snipers sustain more psychological trauma than, say, infantrymen.

Another factor driving the resurgence of sniping is cost-effectiveness. During the Vietnam war, the average number of rounds expended per kill with M-16 rifles was 50,000.

By contrast, snipers averaged 1.3 bullets per kill, and defence officials estimate that contemporary trends are likely to mirror the ratios recorded in Indochina.

Each of the 8.59mm bullets used by UK snipers in southern Afghanistan costs about £20, compared to a single projectile from the Javelin anti-tank missile, which costs £70,000.

They were pinned down on a small hill just east of Kajaki, northern Helmand, a company of Royal Anglian Regiment infantrymen surrounded by Taliban firing from 21 positions. Amid the chaotic firefight, a lone figure crawled along an exposed ridge and, Lambert and Butler cigarette drooping from his bottom lip, slowly took aim. Over the next 15 minutes, the British sniper methodically eliminated seven of the Taliban gunpoints.

The sniper never said a word, but single-handedly ensured his colleagues made a successful dawn retreat one August morning in 2007, a single example among countless occasions when snipers have underlined their value in Afghanistan. A Royal Marines spokesman said: "Once you have targeted the Taliban, you can run down their numbers pretty quickly; without a doubt, sniping is a battle-winner." He recalled one occasion when a sniper picked out Taliban gunmen 1,800m away, a spot that also helped save lives. Only days after the Kajaki sniper's heroics 18 months ago, a 500lb bomb from an American fighter killed three British soldiers in the same location, an illustration of the risks inherent in high-speed air strikes and a tragedy that advocates of sniping still refer to.

As the Afghan conflict rumbles on, military experts predict the role of the sniper will become increasingly central. The Pentagon is developing a guided smart bullet for use in sniper rifles. In the future, men like Dean may crouch four miles away from their target before sending a smartslug to destroy a distant, faceless foe.

Sniper history

• The verb to snipe originated in the 1770s among British soldiers in India, where a hunter who proved skilled enough to kill the elusive snipe bird was christened a "sniper".

• The battle most synonymous with snipers is arguably the second world war struggle for Stalingrad, when Soviet marksmen inflicted sizeable casualties on the advancing German army and inspired the 2001 film, Enemy at the Gates, starring Jude Law.

• Military snipers are typically deployed in two-man teams, a shooter and spotter, who often swop roles to avoid eye fatigue.

• The first British sniper unit originated within the Lovat Scouts, a Highland regiment formed during the Second Boer War in 1900. They were the first unit to wear a ghillie suit, camouflage clothing designed to resemble heavy foliage.

• One sniper doctrine recommends the selection of targets in descending order by rank to cause optimum disruption.

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