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The War on Amrullah Saleh

How many journalists does it take to fix an Afghan light bulb?

Ever since Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) resigned after a Taliban attack on the Afghan Peace Jirga, the Pakistani establishment has gone to great lengths to malign the former intelligence official.  This insidious campaign aims to both target Mr. Saleh’s credibility and restore a Pakistan-favorable narrative in Kabul’s corridors of power.

The News was one of the first media outlets to attack Mr. Saleh:

Amrullah Saleh has taken up the full-time job to malign Pakistan on one end while providing all sorts of assistance to terrorists to step up activities on the soil of Pakistan on the other. He throughout had been in league with Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to destabilise Pakistan but has been recently ousted by Afghan President Hamid Karzai due to his dubious role in the affairs of the state. Amrullah has also assumed the task of creating difficulties for the Afghan administration.  [The News]

Rahimullah Yusufzai, editor of The News‘s sister publication, Jang, kept up the heat on Mr. Saleh:

Amrullah Saleh regards Pakistan and the ISI as Afghanistan’s enemy number one, but has no proof to support his claims.  If Mr. Saleh believes that the ISI is responsible for the ills in his nation, why hasn’t he produced any proof to the effect? Amrullah Saleh is a Tajik, whose alliances lay with Ahmad Shah Massoud and Burhanuddin Rabbani — both of whom were rabidly anti-ISI….[S]aleh is anti-Pashto, has tried to give voice to the Northern Alliance, and holds Pakistan responsible for all the problems Afghanistan faces.  [جنگ]

But no propaganda campaign is complete without input from former ISS Director, Dr. Shireen Mazari, who as editor of The Nation, opined thus:

It is in this connection that the story in Nawai Waqt regarding RAW hiring the ex-Afghan Chief Amrullah Saleh, who resigned recently and spouted venom against Pakistan’s ISI In the now infamous Sunday Times story, must be taken seriously by the concerned organisations in Pakistan. After all, as the Afghan intelligence chief Saleh would have had access to Pakistan-US information sharing of a sensitive nature, which could prove valuable to India in its ongoing covert operations in Pakistan. [The Nation]

That Amrullah Saleh is a Tajik is irrelevant.  When a country’s intelligence and military establishment acts as chief patron to a group that unleashed unspeakable horror in a neighboring country, it is only understandable that the citizens of that country harbor resentment towards the patron.

There is deep concern in Rawalpindi that Mr. Saleh, while not being constrained by official capacity, might take the war to Pakistan and reveal things that ‘Pindi wouldn’t care to have disclosed in public domain.  The attacks, therefore, should be considered as preemptive strikes against anything that Mr. Saleh will likely reveal against the Pakistani establishment. After all, when an aggrieved intelligence official speaks, solid matter is bound to hit the air circulating equipment.

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Urdunama: Indian Misadventure

The Daily Ausaf has been fairly regular in the recent past in drawing attention to what it calls an “Indian conspiracy” in Pakistan and the need for Pakistan to counter it.  This theme, though not unusual in Pakistan’s vernacular press, has appeared more frequently recently than hitherto.  One wonders if there is more mischief at hand than meets the eye.

Below is the December 11 editorial from Daily Ausaf:

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that proof of India’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan has been presented to the Foreign Affairs ministry so that the ministry may raise this issue in all international fora.  Malik said, “We have ample proof of India’s involvement in terrorist activities inside Pakistan”.

Weapons confiscated from four trucks in Bara had Indian markings.  He said his ministry was responsible for accumulating evidence, which is then passed on to the concerned institutions and ministries.

After 9/11, India has benefited greatly from America’s opportunistic wars. But what sort of peculiar logic is this, where Pakistan is forced to make the most sacrifices, while India reaps the most benefits.  This situation points to our weakness where our past leaders made policies only to satiate their own power.  Pakistan continued to sink as a result of this, and India fully exploited this situation.

On one end, India tried to sabotage the movement for Kashmiri independence, and on the other, it has created a situation of virtual anarchy in Pakistan by sending in terrorists through Afghanistan, in its quest for “Akhand Bharat.”

Despite this situation, the US not only  forgot Pakistan’s sacrifices in its war, but also tried to use India as an effective counter-weight to our ally, China.  This Indo-US friendship also includes the civil nuclear agreement between the two countries. As a result of the US’s friendship, India’s attitude is getting increasingly bellicose.  And India has been trying to avoid any further dialog with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

Even if firecracker bursts in India, their media blames Pakistan’s intellegence agencies, while on the other hand despite India’s support to terrorists in Pakistan, our leaders have been silent, and India has been making full use of our silence.

To promote its impure vision for an “Akhand Bharat”, India, via its agents, is trying to dismember and destroy Pakistan. It is also attempting a cultural invasion of our youth. Unfortunately, India’s cultural invasion of Pakistan is being helped by some of our own people.

Even Afghanistan’s external intelligence agency, RAMA, whose name sounds like “Ram”, was founded by India’s RAW.  India has increased its budget allocation for intelligence to facilitate RAW’s activities inside Pakistan.  India’s intentions are to encircle Pakistan — to that end it has established air bases in foreign countries.

With the ruse of helping reconstruct the airport in Jalalabad, India has deployed about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, whose job is to support activities against Pakistan.  Therefore, India’s espionage and terrorism in sevaral parts of Pakistan — from Wana and Waziristan to Baluchistan — is irrefutable.

Our media has reported India’s hand in several terrorist activities in Pakistan — from the attack on the Manawa training center to the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team.  The question that needs to be asked is why India’s shameful and alarming acts haven’t been exposed to the world.

India’s politicians and media make it a point to sully Pakistan’s name, without proof, after every terrorist attack, but here, our politicians, despite beomg armed with concrete evidence of India’s terrorism in Pakistan, appear reluctant to present this to the world.

It is time to give India a befitting reply to its misadventures against Pakistan.

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26/11 and India’s response

It’s politics as usual in New Delhi, and no one seems to care

A year has gone by after the carnage in Mumbai that left over 190 people dead and hundreds injured.  In the immediate aftermath of 26/11, articles were written about the gaping holes in India’s internal security preparedness.

Recommendations put forth to the Indian government are all in public domain —  a tougher anti-terrorism law, a separate ministry for internal security, police reform, increasing NSG headcount and footprint, and enhancing India’s covert ops capability

Of the recommendations made, Manmohan Singh’s government chose to make the establishment of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) central to its response to the holes in India’s internal security preparedness.  To be sure, the establishment of the NIA was an important move, because it addressed Centre-State jurisdiction issues that hitherto plagued the CBI.

However, the NIA’s mandate notwithstanding, nothing in public domain indicates any significant activity in the NIA, until 11 months and two weeks after November 26, 2008, when the NIA belatedly sprung into action, based on inputs from the FBI on David Headley and Tahawwur Rana.

In addition, by virtue of design, the NIA mostly addresses post-incident investigation and forensics.  Manmohan Singh’s government articulated little by way of detective and preventive enhancements to India’s internal security preparedness.

The bigger picture that needs to be examined on the first anniversary of 26/11 isn’t necessarily about specific structural and organizational changes, but about the government’s willingness (confidence?) to make public aberrations in its response to the terror attacks and how these can be addressed.

In the year following the World Trade Center attacks in the US, the Bush Administration constituted the 9/11 Commission to examine aspects of US’s response to the attacks as they unfolded, and make recommendations on how the US should proceed, going forward.  The US Department of Homeland Security was born out of these recommendations.

India deserved its 26/11 commission with a limitless mandate to examine our response to the attacks in Mumbai. Key aspects of the events of 26/11 require independent review.

These include incident-specific issues relating to governance and leadership such as  (a) How long it took to notify key stakeholders, such as the Prime Minister, NSA, intelligence services and ministers of Home Affairs and Defense, (b) The time it took for the relevant stakeholders to coordinate and assess the situation, (c) How long it took to authorize deployment of anti-terror units to the scene, and (d) Crisis management — who was coordinating what aspect of India’s responses.

The second aspect of the commission’s review should have entailed structural and organizational changes and enhancements, including those previously discussed.  Sadly, this government does not have the gumption to constitute such a comprehensive review of its responses to the 26/11 attacks.  This isn’t an assailment of the the UPA administration, it is an indictment of India’s petty political environment.

There are critical aspects of the attack that require further analysis — aspects that India is still uncovering, including the roles of Headley and Rana — and questions that no one seems to be able to answer, such as how a bunch of semi-literate people alien to Mumbai, were able to negotiate their way through the city’s conspicuous and inconspicuous landmarks, without local assistance.

This cannot be accomplished by adhocism or through token responses, such as establishing the NIA and deploying the NSG in some cities. One would have thought that the time was ripe for such a bold response, faced as the UPA is, with an ineffectual, embattled Opposition. Sadly, barring a few cosmetic rearrangements, not much has changed in India, and no one, least of all Mumbaikars seem to care.

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The Lashkar threat and soft targets

A society with low levels of security consciousness contributes to threat potentiality

The arrests of David Coleman Headley aka Daood Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana by the FBI in Chicago last week have led to revelations of threats against India.  David Headley is a US citizen of Pakistani origin, while Rana is a Canadian citizen, again of Pakistani extraction.

Both LeT operatives were arrested after an email exchange between Headley and an unnamed senior operative in which Headley suggested traveling to India, possibly either for recon or actual action. There is speculation that this unnamed operative is Pakistani SSG turned senior al-Qaeda operative Illyas Kashmiri.

The interrogations, in which both the IB and RAW participated, have brought to light specific threats against the National Defence College, New Delhi, two boarding schools in North India and a few five-star hotels.  According to Rediff‘s report:

Two leading boarding schools located in prominent hill stations in a north Indian state and a few five star hotels in popular tourist spots are targets of Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba, a senior Home Ministry official said on Wednesday. According to intelligence inputs, the terrorist group was planning to attack the two schools and the hotels, which are regularly frequented by foreign tourists, he said.

The information came in the wake of reports that David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US for plotting a major terror attack in India at the behest of LeT, have revealed that they were also planning to attack the National Defence College in New Delhi.

The official said the intelligence agencies gathered information about the possibility of LeT attacks a few weeks ago and forwarded it to the concerned state governments for providing adequate security at the schools and the hotels.

It is encouraging to note the level of information sharing between the FBI and intelligence counterparts in India, and the participation of contingents from RAW and IB in the Headley-Rana interrogations in the US.  The level of cooperation will likely increase with greater convergence of Indian and American threat perceptions.  Such information sharing and indeed participation would not have occurred seven years ago.

The other side of the equation for India is security consciousness.  Indian attempts to beef up its internal security must factor in security consciousness at Central, State and personal levels.  Our schools, universities, hospitals, marketplaces and centers of faith are all soft targets which unsurprisingly find their way into terror plots.  Ours is not a security conscious culture; indeed those who flaunt rules and bypass security protocol are greatly admired.

There is a systemic problem in India where appreciation for security has historically been lacking at personal, state and central levels.  While it took humiliation at the hands of a larger adversary in 1962 to shakeup the armed forces and a pacifist government forged from the idealism of the ahimsa movement, no such shake up has occurred in the case of local law enforcement.

Most state governments are happy to let their dilapidated law and enforcement apparatus rot away.  Low budget allocation, no training, no equipment and resources and poor pay.

I’ve never heard of an unmotivated terrorist.  But unmotivated police personnel, there are plenty. Nowhere is the urgency for police reform more apparent than when the physically unfit, unmotivated police constable armed only with a laathi (or a World War II era .303 rifle, if he’s lucky) comes face to face with a terrorist armed with an AK-47, several rounds of ammo and schooled in commando action in the finest jihadi tradition from across the border.

India has battled insurgencies galore, from Kashmir to Khalistan, is in the middle of a Maoist perversion in seven states, and experienced its annus horribilis last year when terrorism against soft targets claimed the lives of 400 Indians. One would have hoped that the impetus for a shakeup in mindset had been provided.  Almost a year after 26/11, nothing seems to have changed.

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