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Sunday, 3 November 2013

From Today's Papers - 03 Nov 2013

Pak Taliban appoints its caretaker chief

Islamabad, November 2
The Pakistan Taliban today put on hold a decision to make Khan Syed, alias Sajna, its new chief after the killing of warlord Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike when several militant commanders opposed the move.

The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) named Shehryar Mehsud as the caretaker chief and its "shura" (council) will meet again in the next few days to decide on a new leader, Taliban sources said.

The sources said the shura had initially agreed on Sajna's name during a meeting in South Waziristan but later withheld the decision due to opposition from commanders belonging to the Nuristan Shura.

"So it was decided to meet again possibly tomorrow to decide a new leader," a source said. Even as Mehsud and five other militants killed with him in yesterday's drone strike were buried at undisclosed locations in North Waziristan, the Taliban vowed to carry out "unprecedented" retaliatory attacks.

The government beefed up security across Pakistan in the wake of Mehsud's killing. "All precautions have been taken," Interior Ministry spokesperson Omar Hameed Khan said.

Security was increased at all sensitive government and military installations, public places and airports, and more policemen could be seen on the streets.

Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq confirmed Mehsud's death in the drone strike in the Danday Darpakhel area and pledged that the group would continue its activities.

Enraged by the killing of Mehsud, the Taliban vowed to take revenge for the drone attack in which the militant group alleged the Pakistani government was involved.

"Our revenge will be unprecedented," Abu Omar, a Taliban commander in North Waziristan, was quoted as saying by The New York Times. Omar said he considered the Pakistani government was "fully complicit" in the drone strike. Sajna (36) remains at the top of the list to succeed Mehsud. He is said to be a close associate of Mehsud and was given the title of Sajna by slain Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud. — PTI

Taliban bury Mehsud

    Taliban fighters secretly buried their leader Hakimullah Mehsud (pic) on Saturday
    Will meet in the next few days to elect their new leader
    The Pakistan Government has denounced Mehsud’s killing saying it is a US bid to derail planned peace talks
    Pakistan also summoned the US ambassador in protest
 NSG plans teams to deal with chemical, nuclear contingencies
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 2
In an attempt to expand its scope of counter-terror operations, the National Security Guard has planned to raise specialised teams of commandos, who will be trained to fight in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) contingencies.

The CBRNE are hazards that can be like the Bhopal gas tragedy or could be in the form of an improvised nuclear device and a radiological weapon such as the dirty bomb, which can be used by terrorists. The dirty bomb is a conventional bomb that is packed with a radiological material. When it explodes, the material is dispersed as dust over a wide area. The exposure of people to the hazardous material can cause cancer, genetic damage and infertility.

In the most recent use of chemical weapons, hundreds of people were killed when the nerve agent, Sarin, was used in an attack on the Ghouta agricultural belt in Damascus, Syria, on August 21 this year. The UN confirmed that surface-to-surface rockets containing Sarin were used in the attack.

After the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the NSG decided to have specialised teams of its commandos, who are trained to fight in case of a CBRNE attack. The NSG was created in 1984 and is India's elite counter-terror and anti-hijacking security force.

"If terrorists attacked one of India's major cities, they could also attack a nuclear installation one day. It is after this realisation that the NSG thought of creating CBRNE teams," said sources.

Last year, the NSG pitched its idea of having CBRNE teams to its parent organisation, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The ministry did not give its approval. About six months ago, the NSG again pitched its idea, but they are yet to get a go-ahead and the required funds for establishing the teams.

The NSG has planned to raise an initial three teams of about 100 commandos, who would be trained in CBRNE warfare. The strength of the NSG is made up of officers and men who are on deputation from the Indian Army and the central armed police forces. And over a period of time, the force plans to train all its commandos in the CBRNE warfare.

Sources explained that to fight in such situations, the NSG would have to devise standard operating procedures or be trained by the Special Forces of a foreign country, who have the expertise in operating in CBRNE contingencies.

"They would be able to fight against terrorists in a CBRNE environment in coordination with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), who would carry out the task of rescuing people," said sources.

The NSG has also been visiting teams of the NDRF, which is a specialised force for responding to man-made and natural disasters. The NDRF which is controlled by the National Disaster Management Authority has four teams that have been earmarked to deal with CBRNE contingencies.

"On such visits, the NSG examines the kind of equipment the NDRF have and then procures them," explained sources. The NDRF may train the NSG on the proper use of the CBRNE equipment such as gas masks, radiation detectors and the contamination kit.

Since its inception in 1984, the NSG possesses CBRNE equipments, but only has 'rudimentary knowledge' about them. The Indian Army was one of the first in India to be trained in CBRNE warfare. From 1987 onwards, the Army's College of Military Engineering at Pune, started running familiarisation courses in CBRNE warfare.

"But the NSG were never imparted any organised training in fighting in a CBRNE environment. Only a couple of years ago, courses on CBRNE emergency management were started for the NSG. But these were only lectures on CBRNE. There was no training," explained sources.

Preparing for the worst

* After the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the NSG decided to have specialised teams of its commandos, who are trained to fight in case of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) attack

* The NSG has planned to raise an initial three teams of about 100 commandos, who would be trained in CBRNE warfare

* The CBRNE are hazards that can be like the Bhopal gas tragedy or could be in the form of an improvised nuclear device and a radiological weapon such as the dirty bomb

* The NSG was created in 1984 and is India's elite counter-terror and anti-hijacking security force.
US has 'scuttled' Taliban talks with drone strike: Pakistan minister
The Pakistani interior minister on Saturday accused the United States of "scuttling" efforts towards peace talks with the Taliban by killing the militants' leader in a drone strike.

Chaudhry Nisar said "every aspect" of Pakistan's cooperation with Washington would be reviewed following Friday's drone attack that killed Hakimullah Mehsud in the country's tribal northwest.

A team of religious clerics was hours away from setting off to meet the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with a view to starting peace talks when Mehsud was killed, Nisar told a news conference.

"Brick by brick in the last seven weeks we tried to evolve a process by which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what have you (the US) done?" he said.

"You have scuttled it on the eve, 18 hours before a formal delegation of respected ulema (religious scholars) was to fly to Miranshah and hand over this formal invitation."

Since its creation six years ago, the TTP has killed thousands of civilians, soldiers and police in its bloody insurgency against the Pakistani state.

It was also behind the attempt to kill schoolgirl education campaigner Malala Yousafzai in October last year.

Nisar said the identity of those killed in the drone strike was "irrelevant".

"The government of Pakistan does not see this drone attack as an attack on an individual but as an attack on the peace process," he said.

Pakistan routinely condemns drone strikes on its soil as a violation of sovereignty and counterproductive to efforts to end militancy, but Nisar's criticism of the US was unusually forthright.
India-China military HQs to be connected with hotline: People's Libration Army
China and India are considering establishing a hotline between the headquarters of the two militaries under the recently signed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), the Chinese Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

The two countries already have hotlines between the two Prime Ministers Offices. Now they are considering establishing a hotline between the two militaries.

The two armed forces will make joint efforts to maintain peace and stability in border areas following the signing of the BDCA during the recent visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Beijing, Chinese Defence Spokesman Yang Yujun said.

Relevant military personnel and departments may hold regular meetings, Yang said, noting that the two sides agreed to continue to promote mutual trust in the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The agreement summarised good practices and experiences on the management of differences in China-India border areas, Yang said, adding that the border areas have generally maintained peace and stability in recent years.

Yang stressed that the Chinese army is willing to work with India to constantly promote mutual trust, enhance cooperation and maintain peace and stability of the border areas so as to benefit relations between the two countries.
Peek at army class system, via US eyes
- American trainee talks of ‘pretty different’ culture of batmen serving officers
Laura Condyles displays her battalion’s shirt in front of Taj Mahal

New Delhi, Nov. 1: An American army officer’s account of her time training in Agra has given a glimpse into the class-system in the Indian Army and has stoked once again the debate of assigning sahayaks — or batmen — who are often required to do personal work of officers.

First Lieutenant Laura Condyles’ account, narrated to the US army’s official publicity wing, suggests she had a grand time during her 52-day course at the Para Training School in Agra in August-September.

But the insight it shares — that the Indian Army differentiates sharply between officers and soldiers and that it operates with poor infrastructure — have made senior officials here take note.

There are exceptions to the sahayak rule — not all officers ask the batmen to do personal work — but that does not shine through in Condyles’ narration.

The Indian Army’s structure “is pretty different,” the US army official wire release quotes the 25-year-old parachute rigger-qualified officer as saying.

“When you are an officer on post, they cook your meal for you, or they deliver it to your room. They clean your bathroom for you every day. They mop your floors in your room every day. They even make your bed for you every day, and they do your laundry every single day,” says Condyles.

The observations make Indian Army officers touchy. Former army chief General V.K. Singh had proposed to do away with the sahayak system and replace them with civilians. He had argued it was not proper for professional soldiers to be forced to do such work.

A parliamentary standing committee has also recommended the abolition of the system dating back to the British Indian Army. The British have done away with it.

But Condyles says that life was difficult in Agra, even with the conveniences. “I had electricity about 40 to 50 per cent of the time,” she says in the account.

The parachute rigger-qualification course trains soldiers in lashing and packaging equipment, including food and hardware, for airdrops. Many of the Indian Army’s forward posts — such as those in Siachen — are “air-maintained”.

Laura Condyles said she was the first foreign officer to qualify with an ‘I” grade — meaning she showed skills good enough for her to be an instructor. “I got it! I’m the first foreign officer that’s ever gotten the “i” grade before, so that was pretty neat!”

“I loved it! I had a great time,” said Condyles. “The cool thing was I’m the first American that went to the course. They had other foreign officers that went to this course before too, one from Sri Lanka, one from Ethiopia, from Nepal, and Pakistan.”

The American officer is wrong when she says a Pakistani was also part of the course. The Indian Army has no personnel exchange programme with Pakistan.

“They drop live animals,” she was quoted. “They put chickens and goats on a platform and drop them in for food”.

Condyles said cows would often enter the air force station in Agra and even the hangars in which the equipment was parachute-rigged. Among the rations dropped during the course were bagged items, tent supplies, bottles, hay, medical provisions, fish, meat on hoof, meat dressed, frozen meat, chicken dressed, chicken alive, fruits and vegetables, and fuel, oil and lubricants.

“At their motor pools they have temples. So, before you get into a military vehicle and drive away, you have to pray to the gods.” Condyles said.

Army reverts to battle fatigues on Fridays

Army Chief General Bikram Singh likes to undo what General V K Singh did while in office, a key-lesson learnt from his immediate senior.

Within a week of taking over as the chief on May 31 last year, Gen Bikram Singh, who had an uneasy relations with Gen V K Singh, had reversed the latter’s decision to place Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag, who was the then 3 Corps Commander, under a Disciplinary and Vigilance ban for a botched up intelligence operation under his command, thereby enabling his elevation as the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander.

In May this year, the Army Chief decided to disband the Technical Support Division (TSD), an intelligence unit set up by Gen V K Singh, over allegations of misuse of their powers and operational mandate. This week, Gen Bikram Singh reversed another decision of Gen V K Singh.

The present Army chief has issued instructions to all officers and soldiers posted in peace stations to revert to wearing battle-pattern camouflage to work on all Fridays ‘to express solidarity’ with troops in inhospitable terrains in operational areas such as Jammu and Kashmir, North East, desert and high altitude areas.

The new instruction came into effort from November 1 and after a couple of years, officers and men were seen in their battle fatigues at work in the Army headquarters on Friday.

“This is to express solidarity with the soldiers fighting battles and guarding the nation under tough circumstances in operational areas. So, the 11.3-lakh Army will follow this uniform pattern on all Fridays,” an officer said.

Though this decision, for the same reasons, had been taken by Gen J J Singh when he had taken over as chief in 2005, the practice of wearing the battle fatigues was given up on instructions from Gen V K Singh, who had taken over in 2010 from Gen Deepak Kapoor. Gen V K Singh had not only changed the ‘fatigues on Fridays’ habit in the Army, but had also pushed for reverting to the earlier system of promotions of Lieutenant Generals in the Army when all got equal opportunity to both ‘command’ and do ‘staff’ postings. The system of bifurcating the Lieutenant Generals into command and staff streams was introduced by Gen Kapoor.

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