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Saturday, 16 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 16 May 09






Drone attacks
US, Pakistan join hands to target Taliban
by Dinesh Kumar

After considerable persuasion, Pakistan has finally been co-opted by the United States to engage in Drone operations against militant positions on their soil. According to reports from Washington, under this partnership, a separate fleet of drones operated by the US military from Afghanistan will venture into Pakistan territory under the direction of Pakistani military officials, who are working alongside their US counterparts at a command center in Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

This arrangement entails Pakistani officers exercising significant control over routes, targets and decisions to fire weapons while working with the US military. However, the Pakistanis are yet to become partners in the use of Drones for shooting suspected militants. As of now, it is only about reconnoitering movement and positions of militants. Islamabad’s rather reluctant decision to join the Americans comes after repeated protests to Washington following the US military’s use of Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to strike at Al-Qaeda and Taliban positions inside Pakistani territory.

Yet, these strikes did not prevent the Pakistanis from asking the Americans to supply them Drones ostensibly to target the Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. In an interview to The Independent in early April, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had stated that they were willing to take out high-value targets on their own and would therefore welcome the relevant technology and intelligence. “We would much prefer that the US share its intelligence and give us the drones and missiles that will allow us to take care of this problem on our own”, he was quoted as saying.

Yet there are reports of Pakistan quietly conducting its own ‘Drone war’ against militant forces and terrorist elements using tactical unmanned UAVs in the mountainous Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and along the Afghan border. In March, the Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that the Pakistani military was using unarmed Falcos for traditional surveillance tasks but also in a ‘hunter’ role – targeting air strikes, providing real-time coverage of attacks and then delivering battle damage assessments. In an interview last November, Pakistan’s air chief Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed said that the Pakistani Air Force would begin using the Falco in live operations at the beginning of 2009. However, Pakistan’s eventual decision to join hands with the US has been more a result of American pressure.

Drones or UAVs are a relatively new entrant in military technology. Unlike combat aircrafts that are piloted by humans, UAVs or Drones are remotely piloted or self-piloted aircraft that carry video and still cameras, sensors and communications equipment. Again, unlike fighter or reconnaissance aircraft, these are much smaller in size and therefore more difficult to detect on radar. Drones, of which the US and Israel have been the pioneers in its development, have become a new tool in the box for modern militaries in the ongoing revolution in military technology. UAVs serve as a considerable force multiplier and facilitator in, for example, the otherwise troop-sapping mountainous and less populated regions of Afghanistan and also the Afghan-Pak border region where the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are hiding.

The main purpose of these stealth aircraft is reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering without risking lives on ground. UAVs, which have been utilised in reconnaissance and intelligence gathering since the 1950s, have increasingly become sophisticated over the years. For example, the Israeli-designed Hermes 450, being operated by the allied forces in Afghanistan, have been flying up to 15 hours a day at a stretch. But some Drones, such as the US-made Predator employed in Pakistan and Afghanistan, have a flight endurance of up to 29 hours at a stretch. The US-made Gnat 750 UAV has a flight endurance of as much as 48 hours.

But of greater significance is the type of technologies that have been integrated on UAVs. The earlier versions of UAVs recorded data on camera and other sensors but were unable to transmit live images. Over time, live transmission of pictures made it possible for an armed force to react much faster by either scrambling fighter aircraft for strike missions, or firing missiles at the newly ‘acquired’ targets, or even sending in troops depending on the nature of the target and the mission. Like satellites and reconnaissance aircraft, UAVs are being fitted with sophisticated synthetic aperture radars that enable imagery to be collected in adverse weather or through foliage.

The more recent addition to this Drone club is Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles or UCAVs, which were developed in earnest (after an earlier attempt at its development in the 1970s was aborted) only in the late 1990s. Like strike aircraft, UCAVs carry munitions such as missiles and the more accurate precision or laser guided bombs, which are being used by the Americans and their allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and also Pakistan. Hence, both satellite and fighter aircraft technology is increasingly being compressed into Drones that are relatively miniature in size.

To cite an example of its effectiveness, on March 4, 2002, a Predator UCAV operated by the American CIA, fired a Hellfire missile into a reinforced Al-Qaeda machine gun bunker that had pinned down an Army Ranger team whose CH-47 Chinook helicopter had crashed on the top of Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountain. Previous attempts by US Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft were unable to destroy the bunker. This appears to be the first time that such a weapon has been used in a close air support role. UAVs are now being extensively used in Iraq and Afghanistan to obtain real time video imagery to speed the targeting of insurgent positions by coalition strike aircraft.

UAVs, which have been inducted by all three services – the Army, Navy and Air Force – of many modern militaries, require a runway for take off. But defence scientists are working on developing the more challenging Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) technology for UAVs. Similarly, UAVs are being developed in different categories of endurance: Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs, which can carry a 250 kg payload, fly continuously for 24 hours at altitudes as high as 30,000 feet, and up to operational distances of 1,000 km, and High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAVs, which will fly still higher and out of striking distance of surface-to-air missiles.

More recently, defence academics in the US have begun making a case for the development and deployment of nuclear-dedicated UCAVs that will be relatively cheaper than long-range missiles and strategic bombers. UCAV’s have not yet replaced strike aircraft, but they have certainly begun to augment the air fleet of advanced military forces the world over.





Dire need for a unified stand to confront multiple challenges

Sat, 2009-05-16 00:53


By Asif Haroon Raja


The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on 9/11 gave a readymade excuse to George W. Bush led neo-cons and the Jews to pick up cudgels against the Muslim world. Terrorism was bloated into a Frankenstein monster and propagated that if not bottled up it would devour the whole world. They forgot that they had nurtured the monster of terrorism themselves in the 1980s and had left it unbridled once their objectives were achieved. As long as this monster killed Soviet troops, the Americans were mighty pleased with its performance and kept feeding it. They didn’t bother about it even when after pushing out Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 it started to suck the blood of people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the whole region got radicalized and traumatized.


They woke up when the monster struck them in their homeland. The world leaders were taken on board on the understanding that to make the world peaceful it was essential to annihilate all the radical Islamists. In actuality they wanted to eliminate all those opposing American and Israeli policies. After devastating Afghanistan on a false pretext that Osama led Al-Qaeda was headquartered there, Bush declared Iran, Iraq and North Korea as axes of evil. Later on, Syria, Pakistan and even Saudi Arabia figured in this axis unofficially.


However, Pakistan under Gen Musharraf felt at ease since it had been made part of the US led coalition tasked to fight global war on terror and had been made the frontline state against Afghanistan. By following the US dictates faithfully Musharraf had become the blue-eyed boy of Bush. All and sundry in Pakistan acclaimed his wise policies asserting that by ditching the Taliban and agreeing to the unreasonable demands of USA, he had saved Pakistan from sure ruination. The steady improvement of economy further bolstered his popularity and his illegal and myopic acts were ignored.


Our exaggerated US centric policies emboldened the Americans to an extent that they meddled in our domestic affairs excessively and impinged upon our sovereignty through covert operations without any inhibitions. After forcing Pakistan to pitch its army against its own people in FATA and to hand over al-Qaeda and its own nationals for their interrogation in infamous Gitmo, the US began to change its colors slowly and gradually from 2005 onwards. The army and the ISI in particular became the target of western propaganda. After ‘do more mantra’ and never getting satisfied, the US in concert with India has now succeeded in tightening the noose around Pakistan through most malicious psychological warfare. By mid 2008, a full-fledged story was manufactured in which Pakistan was made the villain of peace. After pasting all sorts of charges on Pakistan, most of which were applicable to USA, Israel and India, it has been made into the most dangerous place on earth. The mobile Al-Qaeda has been shifted to Pakistan and nuclear Pakistan declared as the epicenter of terrorism and a threat to the security of world.. Nuclear Pakistan of 170 million people is being projected as a house of cards that may collapse within months. While Kilcullen gave six months, Gen Petraeus recently said that the US had two weeks to save Pakistan.


The much trumpeted new Af-Pak policy envisages continuation of drone attacks, joint Pak-US operations in FATA, assigning key role to India, Pakistan to give up India fixation and to focus wholly towards the western threat posed by the Taliban. When the time came to put into operation this policy, the framers of so-called new policy found PM Gilani, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Lt Gen Shuja Pasha adopting a principled stance against US unmerited meddlesome role. The new policy was out rightly harmful for Pakistan. They drew a redline telling the visitors that no further intrusion at the cost of national interests would be acceptable.


Feeling miffed at being snubbed, the US apart from making hue and cry over Taliban threat and propagating that Pakistan was sinking, directed Britain to exert pressure on Pakistan. It promptly obliged by concocting a terrorism drama and taking into custody 12 Pakistani students undergoing studies in UK. The detained students had to be released since the mala fide act was politically motivated. Manmohan Singh joined in to maximize pressure by raising a false alarm alleging Pakistan based terror threat during Indian elections. No information was provided to substantiate the charge. Within the same timeframe, Balochistan front was suddenly heated up and so was Karachi. These multiple pressures were built to get the Swat deal scrapped and to make Pakistan tow US line on war on terror.


Military operations in Lower Dir, Buner and Swat have helped in changing the tone of US leaders and their lackeys in Pakistan. Their barrage of diatribe has for the time being got transformed to applauses and $1.9 billion assistance has been promptly sanctioned. Zardari, who till recent was getting his ears pulled is now being feted in USA and western capitals and showered with promises of assistance to the displaced persons. However, this phase of pats and rewards will be for a very short period. Very soon the army will again be criticized for using excessive force or for not doing enough and Washington saying it should do better. Already grumblings can be heard from among the quarters which were souring their throats for a full bloodied military operation. They have now started to shed tears of sympathy for the displaced persons. The coalition partners have begun to squabble. The ANP and MQM are at loggerheads both seeking military operation against each other.


The MQM accuses ANP for supporting Taliban and land mafia in Karachi while the latter accuse MQM of pursuing fascist policies and hold it responsible for killing its 38 political activists on 12 May 2007 in Karachi. Maulana Fazlur Rehman led JUI has expressed his resentment over the military operation saying that he was not taken into confidence. Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaf are also highly critical of military operation. PML-N, which was going the middle way, is now seeking an end to military action. All political and military leaders must realize that the challenges faced by the country are too grave and no single party or the military are in a position to tackle them. There is a dire need for a unified stand to collectively confront the internal and external threats that are fast sinking the country. It is high time that home grown foreign policy is formulated and implemented in letter and spirit without any tutoring from abroad.


Military operations should not make the rulers complacent that they can now maintain status quo and continue with their orgy of wanton plunder and resort to all sorts of injustices and malpractices safely. Use of force may treat the headache temporarily but cannot cure the disease. Force has never resolved issues but has helped to the extent of creating conditions conducive for undertaking socio-politico-economic measures for removing the deprivations of the underprivileged. Militants can be flushed out from troubled spots but cannot be eliminated since Islamic fervor has spread throughout the country and has permeated into the psyche of have-nots. They will keep enrolling new recruits and creating new battlefronts. The over one million internally displaced persons living in miserable conditions can become future recruits of the Taliban. While there is a segment which is hell-bent on eliminating the Taliban, there is a considerable segment that supports Taliban ideology. Instead of disciplining the illiterate militants, the inefficient rulers backed by insensitive and morally corrupt elites need to disciple themselves and should play a role in bridging the ideological divide and keeping the perverse American influence at bay.


Asif Haroon Raja is a defence and political analyst.





Why McChrystal?


On May 11, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stunned Pentagon-watchers by announcing the dismissal of General David McKiernan as the top allied commander in Afghanistan. Gates nominated Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to replace McKiernan. Gates will also send his senior military aide, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, to be McChrystal's deputy in Afghanistan. With Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen revealing almost nothing at their press conference  about why they made this change, we are forced to accept Gates's explanation at face value. Gates admitted "nothing went wrong," during McKiernan's eleven-month tenure in Afghanistan but that he wanted "a fresh approach, a fresh look."


It seems very likely that McKiernan was the victim, and McChrystal and Rodriguez the beneficiaries, of "home-office syndrome." For the past year, McChrystal and Rodriguez have worked at the Pentagon, very close to Gates and Mullen. During this time, Gates has seen Rodriguez, his senior military assistant, several times a day, and McChrystal, director of the Joint Staff, at least several times each week.


McKiernan, by contrast, although chosen by Gates and Mullen, is a relative stranger and known to them only through brief and infrequent meetings. Gates, knowing his remaining time at the Pentagon is likely to be brief and having just one last chance to get things right, opted officers he knows from daily contact and likely trusts.


In making this switch, what is Gates getting and what is he giving up? By removing McKiernan, Gates is losing an officer with long experience in military diplomacy. McKiernan commanded all coalition ground forces in the initial invasion of Iraq and commanded U.S. Army forces in Europe under NATO before his final post as commander of the NATO-sourced International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. McChrystal may perform the diplomacy role as well as McKiernan would have. But there's nothing in McChrystal's resume on which to base this assumption.


So what is Gates getting in McChrystal? McChrystal's central experience this decade has been man-hunting. Within the narrow niche of direct action raiding, McChrystal earned credits for vastly improving interagency cooperation and for achieving excellent man-hunting results in Iraq in 2006-2008.


Does McChrystal have the diplomatic, organizational, and theoretical skills to lead a large multinational "whole-of-government" campaign in Afghanistan? Having little such experience in his record, we are relying on Gates's and Mullen's judgment.


Alternatively, Gates and Mullen may have picked McChrystal because man-hunting is exactly what they want. Perhaps success will soon be defined not by vague notions of nation-building but by the acquisition of a few "high value" scalps. With McChrystal in charge, this definition of victory may be easier to achieve.

On May 12, General James Mattis of the U.S. Marine Corps, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, gave the key note address at a Joint Forces Command conference. Mattis gave the audience his vision of warfare in the future:


    In the coming years, we will not face wars that have clearly defined beginnings and clearly defined ends. Rather we are going to be in an era of persistent conflict... and this brings with it the greatest rethinking of our military mission in a century.


Mattis is not the only Defense Department official attempting to prepare for a complex and murky future. Michèle Flournoy, undersecretary of Defense for policy, who spoke recently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, foresees a very long list of things for her and her colleagues in the Pentagon to worry about:


    There are many new, emerging security challenges that we need to pay attention to: the rise of violent extremist movements more broadly, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, rising powers and the shifting balances of power, failed and failing states, increasing tensions in the global commons.


    Many of these challenges are fueled and complicated by a number of powerful trends that are fundamentally reshaping the international landscape, and these trends include obviously the global economic downturn, prospects of climate change, cultural and demographic shifts, growing resource scarcity, and the spread of potentially destabilizing technologies.


From these five challenges and five trends, Flournoy foresees new forms of warfare instigated by both state and non-state actors and using tools ranging from rifles and roadside bombs to cyber attacks, attacks on satellites, and weapons of mass destruction. Flournoy's "lists of horrors" imply, as Mattis described, an era of persistent conflict with U.S. military power permanently engaged in a wide variety of actions across the world.


Tom Hayden, a former leader of the 1960s antiwar movement, yells "Stop!" Writing in The Nation, Hayden delivers his review of this decade's wars, summing up:


    So what has counterinsurgency achieved thus far? At most, a stalemate of sorts in Iraq after six years of combat on top of a brutal decade of sanctions. Nothing much in Afghanistan, where conventional warfare pushed Al Qaeda over the border into Pakistan. Nothing much in Pakistan, where the Pakistan army is resistant to shift its primary focus away from India ... The Long War now has a momentum of its own. The impact of the Long War on other American priorities, like healthcare and civil liberties, is likely to be devastating. Since most Americans, especially those supportive of peace and justice campaigns, are well aware of domestic issues and general issues of war and peace, it is important to begin concentrating on the great deficit in popular understanding.


Will Hayden be as successful mobilizing mass resistance to the Long War as he and his colleagues in the antiwar movement were during the Vietnam War? Several factors weigh against him. First, there is no conscription as there was during the Vietnam era. Second, the active duty headcount today is much smaller than it was during the Vietnam era and even smaller as a percent of the U.S. population; the vast majority of Americans today don't have any contact with the military, in contrast to the Vietnam era. Finally, the weekly death rate during the Vietnam War was ghastly compared to today's toll.


With conscription, a large army, and a high casualty rate, the Vietnam War was a very personal matter to America's youth. Those circumstances don't exist today. So Hayden may find it difficult to fill in "the great deficit in popular understanding."


But watch this space. On April 24, I took note of criticism of President Obama's policy for Afghanistan and wondered whether in time the Afghan war might no longer be the "good war." The antiwar movement seems trivial today. But it also appeared that way to many in May 1965.


Robert Haddick of Small Wars Journal is a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and was the director of research for a large private investment firm. He writes at Westhawk and The American.





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