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Friday, 21 October 2011

From Today's Papers - 21 Oct 2011





Obama’s Af-Pak strategy hits dead end Need to look for a suitable alternative

by Zorawar Daulet Singh  Disillusionment and paralysis in Washington over its Afghan war has touched new highs. To the rest of the region, this frustration sounds strange because President Obama’s Af-Pak policy was flawed from the outset.  To eradicate radicalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a purely counter-terrorism mission could not have worked, at least in the initial phase. In the tumultuous political setting where state sovereignty has been eroded over the decades, or, as we know in Pakistan’s borderlands, has never even been established, neutralising terrorism requires some element of state building on both sides of the Durand Line. Thus, the Afghan question logically evolved into a counter-insurgency mission that could only be fulfilled via a limited nation-building project.  Yet, the massive boots required for such a strategy have not been deemed domestically sustainable in the West. This mismatch of ends and means led directly to the heart of the problem - adopting a counter-insurgency strategy that depended on the collaboration of Pakistani boots across the Durand Line. In this sense, the American geostrategy has clearly been Pakistan-centric.  The next challenge before the American planner was to persuade Pakistan to abandon its hedging strategy of supporting proxy militias on their western front. Normalising Pakistani threat perceptions, therefore, became a logical extension of the Afghan strategy.  How did the US respond to this reshaping of Pakistani threat perceptions? This involved cajoling India to reassure Pakistan. Here India’s restraint and reassurance has been stretched to the limit. Nevertheless, we have seen that reassurance that satisfies Pakistan if taken to its logical conclusion implies outright capitulation by its immediate neighbours. The US also directly reassured Pakistan by signalling a long-term commitment to address Pakistan’s fear of abandonment, and provided capacity-building support to help Islamabad help itself.  Changing Pakistan’s worldview and reconstruction of its identity, however, has proved impossible for three reasons. First, lack of intent - Pakistan has been reluctant in fully cooperating as a hammer to the American anvil to break the back of the insurgency. It hopes to retain some leverage via the Afghan Taliban factions not only for future Afghan outcomes but also in ensuring that Pakistan’s 27 million Pashtuns do not create a blowback for the Pakistani state. In fact, it is Pakistan’s Pashtun problem that is the principal driver for its “strategic depth” policies, which are then legitimised by the “India threat”.  Second, lack of capacity - an important assumption was the Pakistani state, including its military, had the capacity and discipline to prosecute a counter-insurgency strategy, which to be politically useful must be followed up with an administrative absorption of the ungoverned frontier regions into the Pakistani state. Again, Pakistan has not demonstrated sovereign governance capabilities to “hold and build” western Pakistan.  Third, an ideational paralysis - the objective of the permanently changing Pakistani calculus presumed that Pakistan’s political-military elite could change course by dismantling their strategic reliance on radical Islam. And this in turn presumed that Pakistan would be able to substitute the diabolical use of Islam and ideologically reinvent itself as a normal nation-state with normal threat perceptions.  This was always a tall order because it implied an ambitious geopolitical reconstruction of the South Asian security system and body politic. Ironically, what the post-transition phase actually needs is a predictable transactional relationship between the US and Pakistan where all western aid is conditioned on sustained anti-terror measures by Pakistan against groups targeting the international community.  Now if a Pakistan-centric approach has reached a dead-end, we need to have a relook at what can be done differently on the Afghan side of the equation.  First, western discourse focuses on breaking the link between Al-Qaida and the Taliban so that the latter can be accommodated in a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan. But to execute this top-down reconciliation strategy would require Pakistani intent, capacity and real governance being extended to the tribal areas and the safe havens in western Pakistan. The prospect of this happening is structurally nearly impossible.  But what about pursuing an alternative strategy that can actually be implemented from within Afghanistan? Breaking the Pashtun link from the Taliban or at least de-legitimising the narrative that the Taliban factions are the sole voice for the Afghan Pashtun is something that has not been pursued seriously. The main reason for this is the US strategic establishment has held on to the optimistic scenario that Pakistan would ultimately emerge as an intermediary in a grand top-down bargain with the Taliban confederacy.  An Afghan state that possesses a modicum of institutional capabilities supplemented with a wider patronage system and security for the southern and eastern Pashtuns can make it harder for the Taliban to sustain Pashtun allegiance, at least on the Afghan side of the Durand Line. So, instead of outsourcing the Pashtun problem to Pakistan, which in turn outsources it to radical proxies, rebalancing institutions within Afghanistan and giving them a pan-ethnic inclusive expression would help. Here rebalancing the ethnic composition of the Afghan national security forces to increase the share of Pashtuns would help in widening the legitimacy of the Afghan state.  The second is to consider what can be done on the Afghan side of the Durand Line to promote Pakistani behaviour that is evidently in its self-interest.  A strong “anvil” on the Afghanistan side, including a robust intelligence, surveillance and defence on key border passes, would imply that Pakistani inaction and intransigence over its Pashtun areas would hurt Pakistani interests more than Afghanistan. This is more likely to adapt Pakistani behaviour - become the “hammer” or face the prospect of getting even more destabilised itself. At the very least, this would produce a structural reaction rather than waiting for Pakistan to unilaterally change the way it deals with western Pakistan and its 27 million Pashtuns.  Finally, a sincere diplomatic effort at bringing Afghanistan’s other neighbours like Russia and Iran into the equation offers an alternative path. Russia’s role in expanding the northern logistical route to Afghanistan as an alternative to the one from Karachi underscores that it prefers a cooperative role. Iran, which shares a 936-kilometre border with Afghanistan, too, has a vital interest in stability. According to the 2011 United Nations Drug Report, Iran has intercepted 89 per cent of all the seized opium worldwide on its eastern border. India’s modest but well-executed reconstruction effort has endeared it to all sections of Afghanistan. In sum, the region has provided more tacit and actual support to Afghan stability than is generally recognised.  Washington can leverage these national efforts to promote a wider burden sharing aimed at a common goal for Afghanistan. A geopolitically neutral, inclusive and a minimally capable Afghanistan that is neither a breeding ground for terrorism nor a potential power-projection bridgehead would be acceptable to all stakeholders.  The Bonn Conference this December is an apt forum for course correction.  The writer is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi.

After Kayani’s warning, US says will pursue terrorists in Pakistan

Afzal Khan in Islamabad  Days after Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s warning that the US should think “ ten times” before launching any operation on Pakistani soil, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today delivered an unusually tough message to Pakistan, reiterating that the US would pursue terrorists in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Addressing a joint press conference with President Hamid Karzai at Kabul on Thursday, she declared, “ ...we are going to seek you in your safe havens whether you are on the Afghan side or on the Pakistan side.” She will be meeting Pakistani leaders on Friday after arriving in Pakistan late on Thursday evening.  The visit of the US Secretary of State takes place amid increasing militancy and Taliban-assisted attacks on the US embassy and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. She added that terrorists posed a threat to Pakistan as well and that the Obama administration expected the Pakistani government, military and Intelligence services to “take the lead” in not only fighting insurgents based in Pakistan but also in encouraging Afghan militants to reconcile with Afghan society.  Using unusually strong language, which is sure to upset Pakistan, she said at Kabul, “ We intend to push Pakistan very hard...our message to Pakistan is very clear...we are going to be fighting, talking and building...and they can either be helping or hindering but we are not going to stop...the government and the people of Pakistan must be part of the solution...”.  Pakistan’s army, while briefing defence committees of the two houses of Parliament, meanwhile claimed that it had lost 3,097 personnel in the war against against terror and that 721 more army personnel had been permanently disabled. The total number of Pakistanis killed in the conflict exceeded 40 thousand, the committees were told.  A Member of Parliament, who attended the briefing, recalled General Kayani claiming that Pakistan spends on three soldiers what India spends on one. He was responding to criticism that a disproportionate percentage of the country’s budget was being spent by the armed forces. The General reportedly told the MPs that only 18 per cent of the budget went to the armed forces and as much as 75 per cent of which was spent on salary and rations.  Asked to explain why his ‘old friend’ Admiral Mike Mullen had stabbed Pakistan in the back, the General reportedly shot back, “ Mike did what he thought was in the interest of the United States and I am doing what I think is in Pakistan’s interest”.

Hillary Clinton issues blunt warning to Pakistan   Read more at:

Kabul:  Setting the stage for a high-level diplomatic showdown, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bluntly warned Pakistan's leaders on Thursday that they would face serious consequences if they continued to tolerate safe havens for extremist organisations that have crossed the border to attack Americans and Afghans.  "There's no place to go any longer," Mrs. Clinton said, referring to Pakistan's leadership, in some of the Obama administration's most pointed language to date. "The terrorists are on both sides" of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. "They are killing both peoples," she said.  "No one should be in any way mistaken about allowing this to continue without paying a very big price," Mrs. Clinton said before leaving for Pakistan for what is certain to be a tense visit by an unusually powerful American delegation sent to demand greater Pakistani cooperation in fighting Al Qaeda and other extremists groups.  Mrs. Clinton will be joined by the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus, who stepped down as the senior military commander in Afghanistan this year.  Senior administration officials have described the delegation as an effort by the administration to display a united front to a Pakistani government that appears increasingly suspicious toward - if not openly hostile to - American policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While those officials suggested that they hoped to persuade the Pakistanis to cooperate, Mrs. Clinton's remarks here in Afghanistan's capital suggested the delegation would deliver a much sharper warning as well.  Her remarks underscored the fact that the war in Afghanistan - along with the hopes for a smooth American withdrawal by 2014 - has become fully intertwined with Pakistan's own insurgents, some of whom have the support of the country's security services.  That has brought the relationship with Pakistan to a new low following a year of tensions - from the arrest of a C.I.A. officer, to the secret raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, to the attack on the American Embassy here last month, which General Dempsey's predecessor, Adm. Mike Mullen, blamed on elements within Pakistan's top spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.  Mrs. Clinton, appearing with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, said that Pakistan could "either be helping or hindering" efforts to find both a military and a political resolution to the war here. It is now, she said, "a time for clarity."  "We will be delivering a very clear message to the government of Pakistan and to the people of Pakistan because they too have suffered," she said, beneath a canopy of trees at the presidential palace here. "They have suffered at the hand of the same kind of terrorists. So there should be no support and no safe haven anywhere for people who kill innocent men, women and children."  Mr. Karzai, who has repeatedly accused Pakistan of interference in Afghanistan, echoed her remarks, saying that Pakistan has long harbored enemies of his government, including the Taliban, whose leadership fled there after the American invasion in 2001.  While the Obama administration has pressed Afghanistan to seek reconciliation with some elements of the Taliban, Mr. Karzai said on Thursday that that would not be possible without the positive involvement of Pakistan.  "We believe that the Taliban to a very, very great extent - to a very, very great extent - are controlled by establishments in Pakistan, stay in Pakistan, have their headquarters in Pakistan, launch attacks from Pakistan," he said.  Tentative and still-fruitless efforts to lure the Taliban into a peace process were dealt a severe setback when a man purporting to be a peace envoy killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of Afghanistan's High Peace Council and a former president, using a bomb hidden in his turban.  The assassination, shortly after a carefully planned attack on the American Embassy last month, raised doubts about how many, if any, members of the Taliban are interested in a peace agreement.  Mrs. Clinton met Mr. Rabbani's son, Salahuddin, at a meeting with Afghan lawmakers, officials and advocates at the American Embassy here on Thursday morning, expressing her condolences even as she encouraged a continuation of the efforts he began. "He was a brave man, trying to do the right thing," she told him.  "We will make sure we continue his vision," Mr. Rabbani replied.    Read more at:

Army converts one infantry division into RAMFOR

New Delhi, Oct 20 (PTI) Sharpening its capabilities to carry out operations on enemy shores, the Indian Army has converted one of its infantry divisions with over 10,000 troops into a Reorganised Amphibious Formation (RAMFOR).  The Hyderabad-based 54 Infantry Division has been converted into an amphibious formation to bolster capabilities to carry out amphibious operations, Army sources told PTI here.  They said majority of the work in converting the Division into an amphibious formation was carried out under present Commandant of the Army War College Lt Gen Anil Chait.  The Army has already raised three brigades to carry out the amphibious operations. Of the three, one is based in South India, another in West India and the third in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.  The Army has been looking to increase its amphibious brigades in the island territories of Andaman and Nicobar by increasing its presence there.  "These developments are significant in view of the increasing presence of the Chinese Navy in the vicinity," said defence analyst Commander (retd) Sunil Chauhan.  The Army is looking to increase its amphibious war-fighting assets also with plans of acquiring light infantry combat vehicles for such operations.  In this direction, the Navy has inducted the INS Jalashwa from the US for amphibious operations and is looking to acquire four more such ships from indigenous sources in near future.  The Cabinet Committee on Security had also recently cleared a Navy proposal for procuring eight amphibious assault vessels from the Garden Reach Shipbuilders under a Rs 2,176 crore deal.

'Pak spends on 3 soldiers what India spends on 1'

Islamabad: Pakistan spends on three soldiers what India spends on only one soldier, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said here.  During the briefing of defence committees of the two houses of Parliament at General Headquarters on Tuesday, the general said up to 75 percent of the defence services allocation was spent on salary and rations of the personnel and just 25 percent on "everything else".  The briefing took place amid tension over the massing of heavily-armed US and NATO troops at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  The Pakistan Army chief denied that defence spending had been going up over the years, reported Dawn.  He said that in 2001 defence spending was 4.6 percent of the GDP while it had now gone down to 2.4 percent of the GDP.  When a parliamentarian asked him on why did former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen "stab him in the back" by levelling serious allegations against the Army, the general replied: "Friendship does not matter in such issues."  "(Mike) Mullen did what he thought was in the interest of the United States and I will do what I think is in Pakistan's interest."

Indian Army’s armoured corps honoured

New Delhi, Oct 1 (IANS) The Indian Army’s opener combat tanks regiment has been honoured with the army chief’s standard.  Army Chief General V.K. Singh presented the Standards to the 85 Armoured Regiment by Roorkee Cantonment in Uttarakhand at a prim military parade Friday, a unlock here said.  A mounted parade was held with full military regalia and the event was witnessed, amid others, by Western Army Commander Lt. Gen S.R. Ghosh.  The corps was honoured in recognition of its ‘dedicated and meritorious’ service since its raising Oct 1, 1976.  A first element of the armoured corps, 85 Armoured Regiment has partook in always actions undertaken along the Indian Army since its raising.  The regiment has won a Shaurya Chakra, the third maximum peacetime courage medal, three Sena Medals, 11 Chief of Army Staff Commendation Cards and 21 General Officer Command-in-Chief Commendation Cards.  To mark this occasion Replica Watches, the legion king too released a Special Day Cover, the release joined.


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