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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

From Today's Papers - 24 Jun 2014

 Fighting the enemy within
Pakistan's counter-insurgency policy had until now lacked cohesion
Gurmeet Kanwal

ON June 15, 2014, the Pakistan army finally launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb (sharp and cutting), its much delayed ground offensive against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in North Waziristan. The army claimed to have killed approximately 180 TTP and Uzbek terrorists on the first two days, including the mastermind of the twin terrorist attacks on Karachi airport on June 9 and 10. 
 According to the Karachi Airport Security Force, 29 people had died in the suicide attack, including all 10 terrorists, while 24 had been injured. On the same day in the latest manifestation of continuing sectarian violence, Sunni extremists killed 23 Shia pilgrims travelling by bus in Balochistan. These two and other recent attacks are clearly indicative of the ability of Pakistan’s terrorist organisations to strike at will and underline the helplessness of the security forces in taking effective preventive action.

Despite facing the grave danger of a possible collapse of the state, the Pakistan government’s counter-insurgency policy had until now lacked cohesion. The commencement of a peace dialogue with the TTP in February 2014, despite the abject failure of several such efforts in the past, allowed the terrorist organisation to re-arm, recruit and train fresh fighters. In March 2014, the TTP had offered a month-long cease-fire. The army honoured the cease-fire and refrained from active operations, but TTP factions fought on. On April 16 the TTP withdrew its pledge and blamed the government for failing to make any new offers.

In the face of mounting public and army pressure, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reluctantly agreed to approve military strikes. He was apprehensive that Gen Raheel Sharif, COAS, may unilaterally decide to launch an all-out offensive. The army had been recommending to the government for quite some time that firm military action was necessary to deal with the menace of home-grown terrorism. The PM is now backing the army fully and has said that he will not allow Pakistan to become a “sanctuary of terrorists” and that the military operation will continue till all the militants are eliminated.

The deteriorating internal security environment has gradually morphed into Pakistan's foremost national security threat. Karachi remains a tinderbox that is ready to explode. The al-Qaida is quietly making inroads into Pakistani terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Harkat-ul-Jihad Al-Islami (HuJI), Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has consolidated its position in North Waziristan and could have broken out of its stronghold into neighbouring areas. Fissiparous tendencies in Balochistan and the restive Gilgit-Baltistan Northern Areas are a perpetual security nightmare.

Realisation about the gravity of the internal security situation has dawned on the Pakistan army as well. Two successive army Chiefs have declared publicly that internal instability is the number one national security threat. However, unlike the Indian army that has been embroiled in low-intensity conflicts since the 1950s, the Pakistan army is relatively inexperienced in counter-insurgency operations. General Kayani had declared 2009 as ‘Military Training Year’ to re-orientate the army to internal security duties. Before becoming COAS, General Sharif had developed the training manuals for counter-insurgency. Over the last decade, the Pakistan army has deployed more than 1,50,000 soldiers in the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and FATA areas. It has suffered over 15,700 casualties, including about 5,000 dead since 2008. The total casualties, including civilian, number almost 50,000 since 2001.

Hurt by a series of Taliban successes in “liberating” tribal areas and under pressure from the Americans to deliver in the “war on terror”, the Pakistan army employed massive firepower to stem the rot - as was visible on television screens worldwide when operations were launched to liberate the Swat Valley (Operation Rah-e-Rast, May-Jun 2009) and South Waziristan (Operation Rah-e-Nijat, Oct-Nov 2009). Fighter aircraft, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery were freely used to destroy suspected terrorist hideouts, irrespective of civilian casualties. This heavy-handed, firepower-based approach without simultaneous infantry operations on the ground failed to dislodge the militants, but caused large-scale collateral damage and alienated the tribal population even further.

Counter-insurgency operations against the TTP in South Waziristan drove most of the fighters to North Waziristan, but till now the army had been reluctant to extend its operations to this province. North Waziristan has a rugged mountainous terrain that enables TTP militants to operate like guerrillas and launch hit-and-run raids against the security forces. When cornered, the militants find it easy to slip across the Durand Line and find safe sanctuaries in the Khost and Paktika provinces of Afghanistan. Ahmed Rashid, author of “Taliban and Descent into Chaos”, has written: “Not only does North Waziristan house Pakistani and Afghan Taliban; it is also a training ground for al-Qaida, which attracts Central Asians, Uighurs from China, Chechens from the Caucasus and a flow of militant Muslim converts from Europe.” Quite clearly, the Pakistan army is in for the long haul and will undoubtedly suffer a large number of casualties.

What do these developments portend for India? Regional instability always has a negative impact on economic development and trade. Creeping Talibanisation and radical extremism are threatening Pakistan's sovereignty. If the Pakistan army fails to conclusively eliminate the scourge in the north-west, it will soon reach Punjab, which has been relatively free of major incidents of violence. After that, it will only be a matter of time before the terrorist organisations manage to push the extremists across the Radcliffe Line into India. It is in India's interest that the Pakistan government succeeds in its fight against radical extremism.

Political turmoil, internal instability, a floundering economy and weak institutions make for an explosive mix. Pakistan is not yet a failed state, but the situation that it is confronted with could rapidly degenerate into an unfettered disaster. All institutions of the state must stand together for the nation to survive its gravest challenge. The Pakistan army and the ISI must concentrate on fighting the enemy within, rather than frittering away energy and resources on destabilising neighbouring countries.
 Information, the new force multiplier
Dinesh Kumar

When Karachi airport came under attack from the Taliban on June 8, the Pakistani Army took the unusual measure of keeping the media in Pakistan pro-actively informed about its anti-terrorist operations through Twitter. During such sensational incidents in today's age when rumours appear to travel faster than the speed of light, often with disastrous consequences, the Pakistani Army resorted to this innovative measure considering that much was at stake. The outcome of its use that night should make a subject of study for any student of Communication Studies. But in the meantime it has marked an interesting innovation from which the Indian security establishment could learn.
Curiously, 10 days later on June 18, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued an advisory to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) asking them to enhance its presence on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. It is not known whether the decision was influenced by the Pakistani Army's recent resort to using Twitter or whether it stems from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s penchant for using social media for dissemination of information and perception management.

As of now, the Indian Army is making limited use of Twitter and Facebook, which again is confined to being used by the Army's Additional Director-General (Public Interface) or ADG (PI). Its limited utilisation is mostly confined to “safe” subjects. Otherwise the three services make use of their respective public relations officers (PROs) posted in the Ministry of Defence and their various respective formations around the country.

Overall, the structure and functioning of the MoD's public relations establishment has remained largely the same. Service officers posted as PROs around the country technically come under the directorate of public relations in the MoD, headed by an Additional Principal Information Officer who in turn belongs to the Indian Information Service. PROs posted in news active formations such as in either or both the Srinagar and Nagrota-based corps headquarters (both located in Jammu and Kashmir) are functionally under their respective commands. On occasions this has led to difference in views, if not friction, between the MoD's directorate of public relations and the PROs who are under direct instructions from the ground formations.

Dissemination of information

Beginning in the first half of the 1990s, the “civilian control” on information dissemination led to the Army resorting to some innovative measures. On taking over as the Chief of Army Staff in July 1993, General Bipin Chandra Joshi issued a list of 10 commandments which, most significantly, had included the point about needing to make use of the “media as a force multiplier”. These commandments listed on small laminated cards were issued to all officers, especially those posted in insurgency-afflicted areas of Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East. The Army had then gone on to further activate a section each in the military intelligence (MI) and military operations (MO directorate – section 24 in the MI directorate (earlier known as MI-24) which dealt with psychological warfare and section 11 in the MO directorate (earlier known as MO-11. Both engaged in disseminating information off the record and without attribution. Not surprisingly, a turf war begun between these two sections which led to their being merged into what is now known as the Army Liaison Cell or ALC which is headed by the ADG (PI) in the rank of a major general who in turn reports to the Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI). The ADG (PI), who meets and briefs journalists only off the record, is the only other point of “official” contact for the media. The Indian Navy has established a Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence department headed by a rear admiral who, again, meets and briefs only off the record. The Indian Air Force has a Director Operations, Media and Public Relations, a post held by a group captain who again is known to rarely meet the media.

Social media revolution

Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube is causing its own revolutions. An unimaginative and insensitively produced video clip posted on Youtube in the faraway United States province of California resulted in attacks on Americans in Libya and Egypt during which the US Ambassador to Tripoli was assassinated. Provocative MMSes on mobile phones sparked fear among the youth from India's North-Eastern states in cosmopolitan Bengaluru that led to a temporary exodus from the country's key IT hub.

These new forms of media have contributed immensely to information warfare. Like the ongoing revolution in military affairs or RMA, the ongoing revolution in Information and Communication Technologies or ICTs is posing considerable challenges to the armed forces and security agencies. Technology has empowered everyone. Information can today be transmitted instantly by anyone anywhere everywhere. The ongoing revolution in ICTs has been as benevolently unifying as it has demonstrated its ability at the same time to be mercilessly divisive. It has transcended all humanly created barriers and even nature itself. It has rendered irrelevant geographical and sovereign boundaries. It does not recognise the diverse and divisive forms of classification of human beings such as ideology, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sects, communities, race, colour etc. Yet, like all good things it also comes with a curse. It has had an equally polarising effect along the lines of these social classifications.

Social media, in particular, is about here and now and often borders on the sensational. Yet, it has on many occasions been setting the agenda. The time between events and their reportage has shrunk to there now often being a zero gap between these two. Simply put, it is instant. This requires near instantaneous responses and sometimes proactive measures such as what was used by the Pakistani Army earlier this month. This involves imagination and innovation. More importantly, it requires a realisation and a will to change.

Live coverage

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs, until recently the preserve of the armed forces the world over, is now being taught in journalism departments of a few universities in the United States. It is currently in limited use by media organisations. But it may only be a matter of time before these remotely controlled aerial ‘reporters’ will both video record and accord live aerial coverage to wars, conflicts, encounters, riots and almost every other form of human violence. Imagine the challenge it could pose to the armed forces and other security agencies deployed in Jammu and Kashmir or any part of India under terror attack or political violence.

The Indian armed forces and security agencies have been slow to change. Instances of innovations and proactive measures in disseminating information have been few. Among the more recent event was the mystery encounter in J&K's Karen sector, where the Army was reportedly engaged in a fortnight-long encounter starting from September 23 to October 8, 2013 during which 10 to 12 terrorists were reportedly killed. No dead bodies of the reportedly slain terrorists were recovered and the last shot was fired by the Army on October 2, six days before the encounter officially ended. The encounter had begun as mysteriously as it had ended, raising more questions than answers which had subsequently led to former defence minister Arackaparambil Kurien Antony to order an inquiry into the Army's claims. The inquiry report remains classified. The Army can ill-afford such mishandling considering the sensitivities involved in a strife-torn state such as Jammu and Kashmir.

But then such mishandling is not new. In May 1995, after the media was first allowed to meet Pakistani terrorist Mast Gul and his gang inside the holy Sufi shrine in Charar-e-Sharief located in the Kashmir Valley's Badgam district, the Army subsequently clamped down on the media preventing them from coming within a 10-km radius of the township in order to prevent any ‘oxygen of publicity’ to the gathered terrorists. On the night of May 11, the mosque and adjoining buildings were reportedly set on fire by Mast Gul who managed to escape to Pakistan. The incident created an uproar across the politically sensitive state. Yet, the following day, the Army's XV Corps headquarters in Srinagar was forbidden by the government from permitting the media to visit Charar-e-Sharief thereby fuelling more rumours. By the time the MoD conducted a media trip to the spot, the damage had been done. The local populace was by then convinced that it was the Army which had set fire to the shrine after first spraying gun powder from its helicopters during the night. The Army did not even care to explain that Army helicopters then not only did not have night flying capabilities but also maintained a safe distance from the ground while flying in order to avoid being shot down by terrorists.

Then four years later on August 10, 1999, a Pakistani Navy Atlantique maritime patrol-cum-reconnaissance aircraft was shot down by an air-to-air missile fired from a MiG-21 fighter aircraft that had been scrambled following the Pakistani aircraft's intrusion in the Rann of Kutch area of Gujarat. Yet the information of the aircraft being shot down came not from India but from Islamabad which was quick to issue a condemnatory statement. It sent journalists scrambling telephones and scurrying to South Block for information that took time coming. This put on defensive the IAF which took time explaining the facts. Apparently, the IAF took time because they had to get a series of clearances from higher levels of the government before coming out with details. The resultant loss of time led to round one going to Pakistan. With considerable effort and diplomacy India was subsequently able to establish that the Pakistan Navy's French-made aircraft had violated Indian airspace. Defence Attaches of all countries were extensively briefed by the IAF, which subsequently also took a media party to the area in Mi-8 helicopters that had to abort its flight after it came under ground fire from Pakistan.

Interestingly, the Pakistani government had done what the US Navy had done 11 years earlier. On July 3, 1988, a US warship, the USS Vincennes, had shot down an Iran Air Airbus A300 passenger aircraft over the Persian Gulf flying from Tehran to Dubai killing all 290 on board after reportedly mistaking it to be an Iranian air force fighter aircraft. The US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William J Crow had then taken the proactive measure of briefing the media within a few hours of the incident thereby wresting the initiative from the genuinely aggrieved Iranians who had been slower to react.

The armed forces and other security forces will need to work towards quickly adapting to the ongoing revolution in ICTs and factoring the fast-paced changes in information dissemination. Handling this is undoubtedly only getting more complicated and unwieldy as is perception management in today's age of information overload, which many times is not necessarily authentic. What is needed is timely and proactive dissemination of information in today's highly challenging information-packed environment which is often marked by fog and questions rather than clarity and authentic information.

The new weapon

* The Indian armed forces and security agencies have been slow to change. Instances of innovations and pro-active measures in disseminating information have been few

* The information flow is often instantaneousness. The live coverage of spectacular events such as the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York (2001) and the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai (2008) have demonstrated how there is now a zero time gap between the event and its reportage.

* What is needed is timely and sometimes pro-active dissemination of information in today's highly challenging information-packed environment.

When info is power

In recent years, however, the pace of information itself has changed.
Consider the following

* The radio took 40 years to reach an audience of 50 million.

* The TV took 15 years to reach an audience of 50 million.

* The landline took 130 years to reach one billion subscribers.

Now consider this for some mind-boggling rapidity and incomparable growth

* The World Wide Web (www) took just three years to reach its first 50 million users on the Internet. Internet subscribers today are in excess of 2.75 billion.

* From just a solitary website in 1990, the number of websites had crossed 700 million by the end of 2013, with projections of touching 1 billion by this year end.

* Mobile phones subscribers increased from 11 million worldwide in 1990 to over 6 billion in 2013 with projections of touching 7 billion by the end of 2014.

The staggering growth in such a short span of these new vehicles of communication does not even compare.
Kashmir youth alleges harassment by Indian Army officer
A youth in Jammu and Kashmir Monday accused an Indian army officer of harassing him from past six months and is forcing him to join militant ranks.

Tajamul Ahmed Dar, a resident of Gotapora Soibugh, in central Kashmir's Budgam district said an Army Major Pragh from 2RR Fox Company stationed at Dhermuna Army camp is trying to label him as militant and every now and then the officer is conducting raids at his house accusing him being in league with militants.


“I am the father of one little girl. The frequent raids conducted by the Army Major are terrorizing my family and my wife and mother. I don’t understand why the Major is targeting me despite the fact that neither I have been a stone-pelter nor a militant,” Dar, who is a student of second year at Bemina Degree College in Srinagar, said.


He added that a few days before the Major 'crossed limits'. “The Army Major along with his soldiers barged into my house and destroyed the crop in the back yard of house. When I asked him why he is doing so, he told me that that he has information that you have dumped some arms in your house,” he said.

The student added that the whole locality knows that he have never been in league with militants.


Dar, 20, said he informed local police about the frequent Army raids. "Police said that they can’t interfere into the affairs of the Army," he sad.

“I appeal police chief and top Army brass to save me from this Army officer. He is forcing me to leave my house and family and join militant ranks. I am innocent and never can harm anyone,” he said.

A top Army officer  assured a news agency that he would look into the matter.
Kabul renews plea for military aid from India
 Speaking in an exclusive interview to The Hindu, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, Shaida Abdali, has admitted that “Afghanistan doesn’t have the defence it needs” to fight “proxy-terror groups” and said India and Afghanistan must strengthen their strategic cooperation.

In December 2013, Afghanistan had put in a “wish list” to India, including requests for tanks, helicopters and ground vehicles, which Delhi had politely turned down at the time, as it has in the past. Instead India supported infrastructure projects and provided military training to Afghan troops and police forces in India itself.

Sources said this was a result of India’s desire not to upset Pakistan with overt military help that may be construed as interference in Afghanistan. In April, the Cabinet Committee on Security had reportedly agreed to fund the supply of small arms to ANA (Afghan National Army) from Russia in order to avoid this very problem.

Reacting sharply to these concerns, Ambassador Abdali told The Hindu, “If a third country, like Pakistan, is unhappy to see Afghanistan getting military support from India, I have just one question… Are we arming the Afghan army (so as to) to fight one country? Why are we an exception in the region when everyone wants a strong army and police? Why shouldn’t Afghanistan? I think there is nothing wrong for India to do whatever it can to support Afghanistan. It is Afghanistan seeking that assistance – not India giving it to us.”
Herat attack

Ambassador Abdali said investigations were still going on into the attack at India’s Herat consulate in May, but it was clear that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind it. “There is no ambiguity about the headquarters of LeT. We know where it comes from. Instead of looking where the attackers are coming from, we must see how to tackle them through planning a result-oriented strategy,” he said.

The Afghan envoy confirmed that India and Afghanistan were working at a trilateral transitory agreement with Iran in order to trade goods via the Iranian port of Chabahar, which India is helping refurbish, as an alternative to the land route via Pakistan. He also spoke of the negotiations over the TAPI gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, but said security is a pre-requisite for any “economic integration”.

Afghanistan’s second round of elections has run into trouble with frontrunner Dr. Abdullah Abdullah alleging fraud. If the winner is declared on July 22 as scheduled, sources said the new president in Afghanistan is likely to invite Prime Minister Modi to his swearing-in in early August, where the Afghanistan government will pick up the thread of its “wish list” with India on security cooperation.

Keywords: Afghanistan unrest, Afghanistan conflict, Taliban terror, war on terror, Afghan envoy interview, Shaida Abdali interview to The Hindu, Indian aid
Army Chief Bikram Singh reviews operational preparedness of South Western Command
Army Chief General Bikram Singh reviewed the operational preparedness of the South Western Command during his two day visit here which ended on Monday.

Gen Bikram, accompanied by his wife Bubbles Singh, arrived on Sunday and was received by the South Western Army Commander Lt Gen Arun Kumar Sahni, defence spokesperson SD Goswami said.

"The Army Chief during his visit addressed the officers of the Command. While 400 officers were present in Jaipur, the others were addressed through video conferencing," the spokesperson said in a statement.
The Army Chief complimented them on the professionalism exhibited during various exercises, including those with foreign armies.  He reiterated the prevailing external and internal security environment and emphasised upon the efforts required to overcome the myriad security challenges.

"The COAS stated that transformation and modernization of the armed forces, including induction of state of art equipment and development of network centricity were the prerequisites for operational readiness and excellence," he said.

The Army Chief, who will retire on July 31, stressed upon the rich military traditions, ethos and the value system and the importance to remain committed and well focused to discharge our onerous responsibilities, while catering for all contingencies, the statement said.

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