Sunday, February 28, 2010


* FEBRUARY 28, 2010, 12:39 P.M. ET

Pakistan's Proxy War on India
Saturday's Kabul bombing is part of a disturbing pattern of attacks on Delhi's interests.
( )


There's a new front in the Pakistan-based jihad being waged against India: Afghanistan. Friday saw the third major Taliban bomb attack against an Indian target in Kabul within the last two years. These attacks are not only testing Delhi's commitment to its presence in Afghanistan, but also the resolve of the United States to support India's interests.

India has emerged as an important source of development aid for Afghanistan. It has invested about $1.2 billion in projects to improve roads, communications and medical facilities. Delhi also provides scholarships to Afghan students, assists widows and orphans, and advises the government on improving governance.

India's efforts have an ideological dimension: to strengthen the secular and democratic sectors of Afghan society and to counter the fundamentalist trends spread by the Taliban. They also have a political dimension: to reassert India's pre-1992 role as a traditional ally of Afghanistan. (The Afghan Mujahideen-led government ended this relationship in 1992 with the help of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment.) Afghanistan's current leader, Hamid Karzai, studied in India as a young man and has embraced Delhi's more activist role.

Both the Taliban and Pakistan oppose this warming relationship. The former sees the revived Indian role as detrimental to its attempts to run the country according to Islamic law. The latter wants to regain its political and military influence in Afghanistan should NATO forces eventually withdraw. Pakistan also blames the Indian presence in Afghanistan—without any evidence—for its increasing internal security problems in the southwestern state of Baluchistan. (These allegations are denied by New Delhi.)

Thus the Taliban and Islamabad have a shared interest in making India bleed in Afghanistan. Friday's attack on two Kabul guest houses and a hotel killed at least 17 people, six of them Indians. The evidence available so far points to the involvement of the Taliban's Jalaluddin Haqqani faction, based in North Waziristan, and the Al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-i-Taiba, based in Muridke. Both groups are closely linked to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. A Taliban spokesmen said the attacks were directed at foreigners.

Pakistan's possible involvement creates a dilemma for India. Friday's attack underlines the vulnerability of Indian nationals working in Afghanistan, despite the induction of Indian security guards and the strengthening of physical security led by Afghan authorities. It is unlikely Delhi will scale back its development programs, especially since the intensified U.S.-led offensive now underway may weaken Taliban insurgents and reduce the Indian vulnerability.

The Obama administration faces an even trickier balancing act. The U.S. has invested blood and treasure in Afghanistan, and has a stake in seeing the war succeed. India's development program is a crucial part of this effort. At the same time, Washington's dependence on Pakistan for its war against the Taliban and al Qaeda makes it amenable to Pakistani pressure. For a start, Islamabad would like Delhi to reduce its diplomatic and consular presence in Afghanistan, which it sees as a direct threat to Pakistan's interests. So far the U.S. hasn't succumbed to this pressure to curb India's program or presence in the country.

Nor should it. India and the U.S. have a common interest in working together to build a sustainable democracy in Afghanistan. The ideological battle of ideas is just as important as the military battles waged on the ground, and in this respect India brings much experience to bear. American and Indian policy makers can't allow Friday's bombing to derail their partnership.

Mr. Raman served in India's external intelligence agency from 1968 to 1994 and on the government of India's National Security Advisory Board from 2000 to 2002. He is currently director of the Institute for Topical Studies in Chennai.

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Friday, February 26, 2010




According to media reports from Kabul, there were at least six Indian fatalities among 17 persons killed by two terrorist attacks in Kabul on February 26,2010. The two attacks were directed against private guest houses patronised by nationals of India, the US and the UK working in Kabul.

2. The Indian fatalities were sustained in a car bomb explosion outside a guest house normally used by Indians working in Kabul. There were two suicide blasts carried out by human bombers outside another guest house normally used by US and British nationals. These blasts were followed by an exchange of fire with Afghan security personnel that lasted about an hour.

3. According to a despatch from the local correspondent of the "New York Times", Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in a claim over the telephone that suicide bombers of the Afghan Taliban targeted two sites in the Shari Now district "where the foreign people are staying." He added: "The actual targets are foreign people."

4. Thus, he did not specify that the Indians were the targets. On October 8, 2009, a suicide car bomber had detonated his vehicle outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul, killing 17 people. Whereas the October 8 blast specifically targeted Indian nationals and was suspected to have had the sponsorship of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the February 26 attack seemed to have been an initiative by the Afghan Taliban meant to convey a message to the international community that the operational capabilities of the Afghan Taliban remained unimpaired despite the current offensive by US-led forces in the Helmand province and the arrests of nearly about 15 Afghan Taliban leaders by the ISI in different cities of Pakistan under US pressure.

5. While there is so far no evidence to show that Indians were exclusively targeted on February 26, the fact that of the two targets attacked by the Taliban one was known to have been the preferred place of stay of Indian nationals would indicate that it wanted to kill and intimidate Indian nationals in addition to other foreign nationals.

6. The fact that the Afghan Taliban has claimed the responsibility for the two attacks should not rule out the possibility of the involvement of anti-India Punjabi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in the attack----- either for orchestrating it or for motivating and facilitating it.

7. Speculative media reports from Kabul have highlighted the fact that the Kabul attacks occurred a day after the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan at New Delhi on February 25. There are no convincing indicators of a link between the two.

8. A more relevant and worrisome question for the Indian intelligence will be whether the Kabul attack of February 26 could have been a follow-up to the Pune blast of February 13. The investigation into the Pune blast has not yet made much headway. It has not yet been clearly established who carried it out. The LET is among the suspects. The possibility of a linkage between the Pune and Kabul incidents has to be kept in view during the investigation. If such a linkage ultimately emerges, that would indicate a new jihadi offensive by the LET against Indian nationals and interests not only in India, but also in Afghanistan and possibly in Bangladesh and the Maldives too in the months to come.

9. Our counter-LET strategy has to be given a regional dimension through stepped-up monitoring, intelligence-sharing and operational co-ordination with the intelligence agencies of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. ( 27-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


( An update of a paper prepared by me on December 27,2001)


Direct military action against a State-sponsor of terrorism waging a proxy war against us by using terrorism through surrogates as a low-cost weapon without the direct involvement of its Armed Forces would be counter-productive and messy.

While there could be no doubt about India's ultimate success in a military conflict, the final cost of the conflict would further retard India's economic development.

Direct military action should be a weapon of last resort when there is no other way of protecting our unity and territorial integrity. We are far, far away from such a desperate situation.

Despite its strong anti-Castro rhetoric, the US has generally avoided any direct military action against Cuba which it has, in the past, accused of sponsorship of terrorism or insurgency in Latin America because of concerns that such action could lead to a messy situation at its door step. What it can afford to do to far-away Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan, it cannot to its across-the-sea neighbour.

Avoidance of direct military action against Pakistan is dictated by its being our next-door neighbour, the suspected presence of irrational elements in its military, intelligence and scientific establishment and the concerns of the international community over the nuclear factor. India has a common interest with the rest of the world in ensuring that Pakistan's nuclear and missile arsenal does not fall into the hands of irrational elements.

Public and political opinion should refrain from creating a situation similar to the one created before 1962 when the clamour for a macho response to China's nibbling at our territory led to unwise decisions.

To talk of limited military action in the form of hot pursuit of terrorists, hit and run raids and air strikes on their training camps in Pakistani territory is to exhibit a surprising and worrisome ignorance of ground realities and a lack of understanding of a proxy war despite India being a victim of it for nearly three decades now.

Legally, India has the right of hot pursuit, but it works only when armed groups indulge in hit and run raids from rear bases in a foreign territory across the border. It cannot be used against suicidal squads of foreign mercenaries operating from safe sanctuaries in our territory provided by alienated elements in our own population.

Destruction of training camps would be a meaningless exercise because terrorists do not have a permanent training infrastructure like Khadakvasla or Dehra Dun or West Point. Their infrastructures are improvised and shifting and come into life whenever they manage to get a sufficient number of recruits for training.

The US bombing of the training camps in Afghanistan in August 1998 did not prevent the attack on a US naval ship in Aden in October, 2000 or the terrorist strikes of September 11,2001, in the US.

When terrorism is used by a State as a low-cost weapon to achieve its strategic objective, what works against it is the ability and the determination of the victim State to hurt the interests of the State-sponsor in order to make it a high-cost weapon for the wielder.

State-sponsored terrorism withers away when the villain State is made to realise that it will have to pay a heavy price for its sponsorship. The US bombing of Libya in 1986 and its economic sanctions against it produced more enduring results than its bombing of the training camps in Afghanistan in 1998 because it hit at the vital interests of the State-sponsor (Libya); whereas in Afghanistan, it hit only at the training camps without hurting the Taliban-run State.

The ideologically-oriented terrorist groups of West Europe, including many inspired by Carlos, withered away after the collapse of East Germany, the erstwhile USSR and Yugoslavia and the US pressure against Syria, Yemen and Sudan deprived them of any State-sponsor.

Egypt was able to control the activities of the Al Gama Al Islamiya and other similar groups only after the US pressure on the Sudan deprived them of sustenance from the Sudanese State.

If Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against India is not abating, it is partly because of the reluctance of the US to exercise similar pressure on it and partly because of our unwillingness and inability to make the State of Pakistan pay a price for its sponsorship. When a puppeteer uses puppets to hurt you, you have to disable the puppeteer; otherwise, the more the puppets you destroy the more the number that will crop up.

Other options, which need to be tried first before even contemplating the direct military option, are political, economic and non-military covert actions. The political option relates to intensifying our pressure on the international community in general and the US in particular to act against Pakistan. The US is as opposed now as it was in the past to calling Pakistan to order, but one could see from the US media that growing sections of public opinion there do not take as benign a view of Islamabad as the Administration does. One must take advantage of this wind of change.

India has a much stronger case against Pakistan than the US has had against the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. We have had difficulty in selling our case because of the USA's strategic interest in Pakistan and the nostalgic links of the military-intelligence establishments of the two countries.

It would, therefore, be unrealistic to expect the US to come down on Pakistan heavily. We cannot expect more than proforma admonitions addressed to Islamabad. However, this should not be an argument for not keeping up our diplomatic pressure to confine Pakistan to the dog house.

Islamabad will not give in as easily to US pressure vis-a-vis India as it did apropos Afghanistan. In its perception, the proxy war has brought it very close to its objective of a change of status quo in J & K. It thinks that if it relents in the proxy war in response to US pressure, it may not get for decades a similar opportunity to change the status quo. In its eyes, keeping the Indian security forces preoccupied with internal security duties is also meant to neutralise the quantitative and qualitative advantage enjoyed by the Indian military.

The only way, short of a military conflict, of making it relent in its proxy war is by making the perceived low-cost weapon into a high-cost one. Economic warfare, through overt and covert means, could be one way of doing this. However, such economic warfare would have produced better results before 9/11, but today its cash flow position has improved due to continuing flow of US money. And yet, sustained economic warfare could neutralise the reprieve which the Pakistani economy has gained since 9/11.

Political, diplomatic and economic actions by themselves would not make Pakistan relent unless simultaneously accompanied by hard-hitting covert actions directed at Pakistan's neurologic spots carefully identified. A covert action is defined as a clandestine and deniable action, armed or unarmed, not involving the use of the Armed Forces, which a State undertakes in a situation where the use of the conventional diplomatic or military option is considered as not feasible or advisable.

Successful covert actions demand the required professional capability in the intelligence community, objective allies in the targeted territory and consistency on the part of the political leadership in their implementation.

Consistency in our policy towards Pakistan has not been a hallmark of our national security management. It must be said to the credit of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment that it has exhibited remarkable consistency in its hatred of India and in its urge to hurt us wherever and whenever it can.

Our policy of "kabi garam, kabi naram" (sometimes hard, sometimes soft) creates confusion and uncertainty in the minds of our own security bureacracy and makes our objective allies across the border hesitant to co-operate with us in covert actions.

The need of the hour is a counter proxy war doctrine incorporating its political, diplomatic, economic and covert components and its implementation in a determined and consistent manner. The results would not come dramatically, but slowly and almost imperceptibly.

The starting point of any exercise to work out a counter proxy war doctrine has to be the answers to two questions---- is it in our national interest to make Pakistan pay a prohibitive price internally and externally for using terrorism against India? If so, how to do it in a manner which will be effective and deniable?

Once we have affirmative answers to these questions, many options will suggest themselves. Inaction or unwarranted generosity will be suicidal against a determined and cunning adversary such as Pakistan.

Our intelligence agencies are not strangers to covert actions. They have had instances of successes and instances of failures. 1971 was the successful culmination of a covert action initiated 20 years earlier. The defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 by the US was facilitated by a covert action initiated by India some years earlier. These were not acts of terrorism. These were intelligently-conceived operations executed with stealth and consistency.

The very same political leadership, which ordered the winding-up of our covert action capability vis-a-vis Pakistan in a moment of misplaced generosity in 1997, ordered the continuance of the capability directed against the Taliban, which ultimately paid results in 2001.

If our political leadership and people bestow confidence in our agencies, give them a consistent goal and the wherewithal to achieve that goal, they are capable of producing results.

Unfortunately, the present leadership lacks in the will to prevail against a determined adversary and in self-confidence that it can stand up to pressure from the US if our leadership takes a tough line against Pakistan. Public opinion has to assert itself. ( 23-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Sunday, February 21, 2010




Sources in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the party headed by Mr.Altaf Hussain, who lives in political exile in the UK, have been alleging for some months now that many leaders of the Afghan Taliban have shifted from Quetta in Balochistan to Karachi and that, similarly, the absconding leaders of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), including its Amir Maulana Fazlullah, have shifted from the Swat Valley to Karachi.

2. Their allegations were not taken seriously till now by US officials. Those allegations were attributed to the MQM's political tussle with the Awami National Party (ANP), which enjoys the support of the majority of the Pashtun community of Karachi, and dismissed as motivated by this political rivalry.

3. However, the recent arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the supposed No. 2 of the Afghan Taliban, and some middle-level leaders of the organisation, in Karachi have lent credibility to the allegations of the MQM. Sources in Mr.Altaf Hussain's organisation are now alleging that not only leaders of the Afghan Taliban, but also many absconding elements of Al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, and his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, have shifted to Karachi from North Waziristan to escape the intensified Drone (unmanned planes) attacks by the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and that they have been given shelter by their Pashtun sympathisers in Karachi. They further allege that the Pakistani authorities and some of the political leaders are aware of this.

4.Mr. Ansar Burney, Chairman of the Ansar Burney Trust and a former Minister of the Federal Government, who was among the first to make allegations about the shifting of the Afghan Taliban leaders from Quetta to Karachi, has now gone public with allegations regarding the shifting of Al Qaeda leaders from North Waziristan to Karachi. In a statement issued on February 21,2010 carried by the "News" on February 22, he has been quoted as saying as follows: "The recent arrest of one of the close allies of Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar from Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, has proved that my previous statements about the presence of terrorists in Karachi were true. " He expressed his grave concern over the information that Abu Riyan al Zarqawi, also known as Abu Musa, reportedly told the security agencies that Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar were in Pakistan and that just a month ago he met them personally and added: "It was shocking to know after the reports that Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar were in Pakistan under the patronage of some political parties and supporters in the Government. After the arrest of Abu Musa, it is now confirmed that the leadership of the al-Qaeda and Taliban are in Karachi and enjoying their life in safe havens. The President and the Prime Minister should take stern action against the increasing Talibanisation and Al Qaeda activities in Karachi.Talibanisation is a conspiracy to undermine peace in the entire region and I urge the patriotic Pakistanis and national security agencies to curb this menace or the solidarity of the country would be at stake. I had already confirmed reports and recently issued statements that after the Army operation in Swat and tribal areas, terrorists had taken refuge in Karachi and were spreading terrorism throughout Pakistan from the country’s largest city." He condemned some politicians and religious leaders for their criminal silence on the Talibanisation in Pakistan. ( 22-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Saturday, February 20, 2010




The well-publicised arrests by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the supposed No.2 of the Afghan Taliban, and two other senior Taliban leaders Mullah Abdul Salam and Mullah Mohammad Mir have not had any impact on the morale of the Afghan Taliban fighters confronting the 15.000---strong US led NATO cum Afghan National Army troops, which launched an offensive on February 13,2010, to wrest control over the Marjah area of the southern Helmand province from the Afghan Taliban.

2. While it has been confirmed that Mulla Baradar was captured in Karachi on the basis of intelligence collected by the US agencies, it is not yet clear where the other Afghan Taliban leaders were captured. According to some reports, Mulla Salam was captured from Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab, while Mulla Mir was captured in Balochistan. Acording to some other reports , both were captured in the madrasa at Akora Khattak, near Peshawar, run by Maulana Samiul Haq, the Amir of one of the factions of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam Pakistan.

3. There have been some other arrests of middle-level office-bearers of the Afghan Taliban in Karachi. These arrests have been projected by many American analysts, including Bruce Riedel, formerly of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as a possible game-changer and indicator of a welcome Pakistani decision to co-operate sincerely with the US against the Afghan Taliban.

4. These projections have not been borne out by reports from well-informed police sources in Karachi, which describe these arrests as a manoeuvre by the ISI to discard the well-identified leaders of the Afghan Taliban and usher in a new leadership consisting of well-motivated and well-trained recruits of recent vintage, who have not yet come to the notice of the US agencies.

5. They say that the leaders arrested since January-end in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan no longer constituted the command and control of the Afghan Taliban and that is why their arrests have not yet had any impact on the operations of the Afghan Taliban on the ground----either in the Helmand province or elsewhere. They say that the Taliban forces presently resisting the US-led offensive in the Helmand province are led by a new crop of leaders devoted to Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Afghan Taliban, but capable of operating independently without the need for directions from a central command and control.

6. The Taliban forces in the Helmand province have been following the same tactics as the Taliban had followed in the past and as Al Qaeda had followed in Tora Bora. This tactics consists of the bulk of the forces withdrawing from the battle zone into Pakistan or dispersing to their native villages, while a smaller number stayed put in the battle zone to inflict casualties and equipment damage to the advancing US-led troops and make their “victory” pyrrhic.

7.Though it is now a week since the battle started, the advance made by the US-led forces has been expectedly slow. This is partly due to the large planting of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines by the Taliban along the expected route of advance of the US-led troops and partly due to the resistance to the advance put up by the Taliban forces still in the battle zone.

8. During the first week of the fighting, 11 NATO troops and one Afghan soldier have been killed in the operation, according to the International Security Assistance Force. The Afghan authorities have claimed that at least 40 Taliban fighters were killed in and around Marjah.

9.The repeated allegations by the NATO forces that the Taliban has been using civilians as “human shields” in order to slow down the NATO advance speak of the difficulties faced by the NATO forces. Major-General Nick Carter, of the British Army, has been quoted as saying: "I guess it will take us another 25 to 30 days to be entirely sure that we have secured that which needs to be secured and we will probably won't know for about 120 days whether or not the population is entirely convinced by the degree of commitment that their Government is showing to them. So I guess looking downstream, in three months time or thereabouts we should have a pretty fair idea of about whether we have been successful. "

10. In their media briefings, US spin-masters have been projecting the entire operation as carried out on the orders and under the political leadership of President Hamid Karzai, who is being projected as being in the driving seat of the operation. In a report carried on February 19,2010,the “Wall Street Journal” described how Gen.Stanley McChrystal , the US Commander, obtained the approval of President Hamid Karzai before launching the operation. It reported: “Gen. McChrystal said: "Mr. President, tonight is the night the operation needs to happen. I need your permission to go." Mr. Karzai paused, remarked that it was first time anyone had ever asked him to make such a decision, and gave his assent.”

11.Mr.Karzai apparently did not suspect that the Americans wanted to show him as being in the driving seat so that they could blame him tomorrow if the operation failed. A victory in the operation will be Mr.Obama’s, but a defeat will be Mr.Karzai’s. (21-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Thursday, February 18, 2010



Three prestigious global sports events are scheduled to take place in India between now and the end of the year---the World Cup Hockey, the IPL Cricket League and the Commonwealth Games.

2. These events will atract the attention of not only the sports enthusiasts of the world, but also of the terrorists with a global oran anti-Indian agenda who will look upon the events as an opportunity to publicise their cause and to demonstrate their capability to take the intelligence and security agencies by surprise. Even if they are not able to carry out any terrorist strike on the ground, they will try to create feelings of insecurity in the minds of sports enthusiasts and the general public by the spread of rumours, issue of threats and other means.

3.The Internet and the E-mail have placed at their disposal means of spreading nervousness through threats disseminated electronically in the names of well-known terrorist organisations. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to establish the authenticity of such mails and the seriousness of such threats. At the same time, it will be unwise not to factor them into our security planning just because their authenticity could not be established.

4. It is incumbent on all those------ whether governmental or non-governmental experts, sports enthusiasts or the general public--- who are determined to defeat terrorism not to let themselves be intimidated by such rumours and threats. They should go ahead with their administrative, logistics and security arrangements for these events and ensure that these events are held successfuly undeterred by the despicable attempts of the terrorists to sow the seeds of fear.

5. The moment we let ourselves be intimidated and unnerved by the tactics of the terrorists we will be paving the way for more terrorism in the world. Defiance in the face of intimidation should be our motto.

6. While thus maintaining our equanimity, we should ensure that our security planning leaves nothing to chance and that every security-related contingency is catered for. The intelligence and the physical security agencies of the Government should work in tandem and in close co-ordination with those in the organisations responsible for organising these events, who would be in charge of physical security.

7. Access control, venue security, route security and the security of the general public in the towns and cities where these events will be held should receive priority attention from those responsible for security. Strict access control at the place of stay of the participants, along the routes by which they will be moving to and fro, and at the venue of the events would go a long way in thwarting any plans by terrorists or other mischievous elements to disrupt the events.

8. The intelligence agencies will have, as always, an important role to play in enabling the physical security agencies to provide effective security by stepping up their intelligence collection efforts through intensified street patrolling, thorough local enquiries at transport hubs and places of stay such as hotels, inns etc and through technical means. We should not fight shy of seeking the assistance and co-operation of intelligence agencies of friendly countries well disposed towards India for supplementing our intelligence collection efforts.

9.Any equipment and other technical capacity shortages should be immediately identified and the deficiencies removed through our own efforts and resources or through the co-operation of friendly governments.

10. We are fotunate that these events will be taking place at a time when we will not be preoccupied with other high-level security commitments. We should be able to devote our undivided and undiluted attention to the security of the coming events and there should be no shortage of manpower for this purpose.

11. The quality of the supervision over the security arrangements would be of the highest importance. The Government of India, in consultation with the State Governments and the central intelligence and security agencies, should mobilise the services of the best officers in physical security, who have proved themelves in the past, for supervising the arrangements. (18-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Wednesday, February 17, 2010




Two developments originating from Pakistan after the explosion in the German Bakery of Pune on February 13,2009, call for comments.

2. The first is the claim reportedly made by an individual to Ms.Nirupama Subramanian, the Islamabad-based correspondent of "The Hindu", the daily newspaper published from Chennai, claiming responsibility for the explosion on behlaf of an organisation called the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET)--Al Alami meaning international.

3. To quote from the paper (February 17): " Identifying himself as a spokesperson of a group calling itself the LET--Al Almi, an individual using the code name Abu Jindal said the bombing was carried out because of India's refusal to discuss the Kashmir issue in the coming talks with Pakistan. Abu Jindal said he was calling from Miramshah in North Waziristan and the telephone number used to make the call carried an area code common to the Waziristan tribal area and Bannu, the adjoining district in the North-West Frontier Province. When The Hindu tried calling back, though, a recorded voice message said the number was temporarily not in use. No past communique was issued by the LET--al Almi and terrorism experts in New Delhi told The Hindu that no such group was known to exist."

4. The expression "Al Alami" meaning "International" had been used in the past by Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, which claim to have an international presence. Two examples are the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), which is a founding member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People and the Jamiatul-Mujahideen. After 9/11, there were some terrorist strikes in Pakistani territory directed against the US and other foreign targets----such as the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the reporter of the "Wall Street Journal ", the murder of the wife and daughter of a US diplomat with a hand grenade in an Islamabad church, a suicide attack outside the US consulate in Karachi etc. Pakistani investigators attributed these attacks as well as an unsuccessful attempt to kill Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Karachi to an organisation called the HUM--Al Alami.

5. On different occasions, Pakistani police officers gave different accounts of its background. Sometimes, they described it as the international wing of the HUM. Some other times, they described it as the wing of the HUM which represents it in the IIF. On other occasions, they described it as a spinter group of the HUM, which had split from it due to differences. They also said that the the HUM itself had started functioning under the name HUM--Al Alami after it was declared a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US in 1997 because of its involvement in the kidnapping of some Western tourists in Jammu and Kashmir under the name Al Faran in 1995.

6.The HUM had never made a secret of its extensive presence abroad outside India, including in Southern Philippines, the Central Asian Republics, the Gulf countries, and Chechnya. In fact, it used to brag about it in interviews to Pakistani media. Next to the HUM, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the LET have a presence abroad outside India. While the HUJI's presence is confined to Bangladesh, the Arakan area of Myanmar, Southern Thailand, the Central Asian Republics, the Gulf countries and Chechnya, the LET is the only Pakistani organisation, which has a presence not only in Indonesia, Singapore and the Gulf countries, but also in the US and West Europe.

7. Whereas the HUM talks openly about its international presence, neither the HUJI nor the LET do so. The LET, in particular, which is close to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), never talks of its activities in the West lest the ISI be embarrassed.Till today, it has not admitted that David Coleman Headley and Hussain Rana, presently facing trial in Chicago, belonged to it.

8. The only occasions when the LET had referred to its interests in overseas targets other than India were with reference to the need for a jihad against the US troops in Iraq and the need for action against the Danish newspaper and its cartoonist for publishing cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in 2005. One never found in the past any reference to an Al Alami wing of the LET.

9. It will be difficult to establish the authenticity of the telephone call received by The Hindu correspondent as having really originated from a designated representative of an organisation called the LET--- Al Alami. If one presumes that such an organisation exists and that the call did originate from its spokesman, it would mark an attempt by elements based in Pakistan to project the LET---Al Alami as part of bin Laden's IIF unconnected with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa of Pakistan headed by Prof-Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed. It is similar to the attempt made after the 26/11 terrorist strikes to project them as having been carried out by a group of Indian Muslims called the Deccan (Southern) Mujahideen.

10. The second development calling for comments is the E-Mail received by the Karachi-based correspondent of "Asiatimes Online" purporting to be from Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani national, who has been indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) along with Headley and Rana for conspiring to launch a terrorist attack on the offices of the Danish journal which carried the cartoons. According to well-informed Pakistani journalists such as Hamid Mir, Ilyas used to be in the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army before drifting into the world of terrorism----initially in Afghanistan, then In Kashmir and now in North Waziristan.

11. Till some years ago, he used to be responsible for the operations of the HUJI in J&K. He has since fallen out with the HUJI and now heads as organisation called the 313 Brigade based in North Waziristan. Headley, who had met Ilyas in Norh Waziristan, was a common cut-out of the LET and Ilyas. He was helping the LET in its acts of terrorism in India and Ilyas in his planned attack on the Danish journal. For details of Ilyas and his 313 Brigade, please see my earlier two articles titled :LET Revives 2003 Plan to Use US As Launching Pad for Terrorism in India at and The 313 Brigade at .

12.In the past, Ilyas had come to notice for his activities on behalf of the HUJI in J&K, but not in Indian territory outside Kashmir. But, HUJI cadres---from Pakistan as well as Bangladesh--- have been active in Indian territory outside J&K for many years.In the E-mail, Ilyas has sought to intimidate intending foreign participants in the World Cup Hockey league, the IPL Cricket League and the Commonwealth Games in India in the comming months into cancelling their participation by warning them of the consequences of their participation.

13. Since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore last year, foreign sports teams are not prepared to participate in any events in Pakistan, which has been totally boycotted. Ilyas' attempt to intimidate is part of a Pakistan-inspired Psywar to create similar nervousness among foreign sportsmen and sports officials about the likely dangers of participating in sports events in India.

14. Three prestigious sports events are to take place in India this year.The terrorists will look upon these events as providing an opportunity to publicise their cause and embarrass India. A similar attempt to intimidate sportsmen was made by the Khalistani terrorists at the time of the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1983.On getting information of their plans, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, personally monitored the security arrangements through Rajiv Gandhi and Arun Singh and requested R.N.Kao, former chief of the R&AW, to co-ordinate the physical security. Kao did so with the help of K. Sankaran Nair, who had succeeded him as the chief of the R&AW.

15. Keeping in view the likely threats and the high-profile attempts at intimidation initiated by Ilyas, the Government should constitute a high-power committee of senior officials to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis and coordinate the physical security. The matter should not be handled in a routine manner as the follow-up action on Headley's visits to India seem to have been handled . (17-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd ), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Tuesday, February 16, 2010




US intelligence agencies have widened their hunt for the leaders of the Afghan Taliban in the non-tribal areas of Pakistan, particularly in Karachi.

2. This is reminiscent of the widening of the hunt for the leaders and senior operatives of Al Qaeda in the non-tribal areas in 2002-03 after they fled into Pakistan from Tora Bora in Afghanistan. This, inter alia, led to the capture of Abu Zubaidah in Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab in March,2002, Ramzi Binalshib in Karachi in September 2002 and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in Rawalpindi in March,2003.The success of the US agencies in tracing them in the non-tribal areas and pressuring the Pakistani agencies to arrest them and hand them over to the US forced the other leaders, who had evaded capture, to flee to North Waziristan and take shelter there. They are now being hunted there by the Drones (unmanned planes) of the CIA.

3.Originally, the US agencies believed that the surviving leaders of the Afghan Taliban, including Mulla Mohammad Omar, were operating from the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan, particularly from the refugee camps in the Quetta area. The collusion of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with the Quetta-based leaders led to suggestions from the US field commanders in Afghanistan for extending the Drone strikes to the Quetta area to hit at the hide-outs of the Afghan leaders there.

4. In the wake of these suggestions, there were reports that the ISI has shifted the Afghan Taliban leaders to Karachi and helped them to get sanctuaries among the pro-Taliban elements in the local Pashtun community. Karachi is estimated to have more Pashtuns than Peshawar, the capital of the Pashtun-majority North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the party of Mohajirs headed by Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in the UK, has been alleging for some months now that not only Afghan Taliban, but even some Pakistani Taliban leaders have taken shelter in the Pashtun community in Karachi and have been operating from there.

5.Till recently, the US was not taking these allegations seriously. It is now paying more attention to these allegations and US agencies have stepped up their intelligence collection efforts in Karachi-----particularly after attacks on NATO logistics convoys in the Karachi area.

6. The reported capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's operational commander and the deputy to Mullah Omar, in Karachi some days ago by the ISI at the instance of the US agencies has to be viewed in this context. The reports of his arrest have been denied by Mr.Rehman Mallik, the Pakistani Interior Minister,and Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

7.Other reports purported to be emanating from Taliban commanders have been quoted as claiming that Baradar has in fact been captured by the Americans, but in the Helmand province of Afghanistan where the US has launched an offensive against the Afghan Taliban and not in Karachi.

8. The report of his arrest in Karachi, if confirmed, would embarrass both the Pakistani authorities and the Afghan Taliban as this would lend some substance to the allegations of the MQM that the Taliban leadership is now operating from Karachi.

9. The speculation that the reported arrest of Baradar is a US-engineered charade and is part of its exercise to create a split in the Afghan Taliban by winning over associates of Mulla Omar does not carry conviction at present. ( 17-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Sunday, February 14, 2010


FEBRUARY 14, 2010, 12:47 P.M. ET

An Antiterror Wake-Up Call


India suffered its first major terrorist attacks since the 2008 Mumbai massacre Saturday with the bombing of a popular bakery in Pune. While the death toll, currently at nine, doesn't approach the 166 killed in Mumbai, the incident should provoke a rethink of the speed with which New Delhi revamps its approach to the war on terror.

Saturday's attack was a single act of terrorism directed at a soft target. It was not an act of suicidal terrorism, as the bomber left a backpack under a table and then left the building. The device may have been timed or remotely activated. The explosion took place when one of the bakery's clients tried to open the backpack. Such attacks require access to explosive material and basic knowledge of how to assemble a bomb. The terrorist may not have had any special expertise or training.

The Pune incident is unfortunately not a single event. India suffered a wide range of terrorist attacks by different individuals and groups over the years. The 2008 Mumbai massacre was a commando-style attack perpetrated by 10 Pakistani terrorists on multiple targets, and lasted three days. Between November 2007 and September 2008, a group of Muslims calling themselves the Indian Mujahedeen carried out a series of well-orchestrated serial explosions in various cities, including Jaipur and Bangalore.

After the Mumbai attacks, the Congress Party-led government considerably strengthened the country's counterterrorism machinery. Home Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram has strengthened the capability of the special intervention forces, such as the National Security Guards, to put down commando-style attacks quickly by deploying them in important cities, instead of keeping them concentrated in New Delhi as was done before the Mumbai massacre. Mr. Chidambaram has introduced greater cohesion in the functioning of the intelligence agencies and personally coordinated follow-up action on the data collected.

Further, he has created a National Investigation Agency to investigate serious terrorist attacks with national ramifications. He has proposed the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center and a Ministry for Internal Security patterned after America's Department of Homeland Security. When these institutions are eventually created, all agencies responsible for counterterrorism would function under a single command. Mr. Chidambaram himself would oversee the entire apparatus.

Saturday's successful explosion at Pune shows the measures already taken by the government have not been as effective as hoped. Pune was known to be a target for terrorists. America's Federal Bureau of Investigation has been looking into frequent visits to India by David Headley, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin based in Chicago who belonged to the Lashkar-e-Taiba network and is alleged to have played a role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Mr. Headley is alleged to have scouted out possible targets in New Delhi and Pune, including an ashram close to the bakery attacked Saturday.

India's own National Investigation Agency undertook a separate investigation into Mr. Headley. The NIA's investigation identified other potential targets, such as a Jewish religious and cultural center—also located close to Saturday's attack—that was similar to the center attacked in Mumbai in 2008.

Pune has many technical universities and other institutions of learning which attract Muslim students from abroad. Many of Pune's Muslim youths interact with these students, and are becoming radicalized. Three members of the Indian Mujahedeen—information technology experts—were drawn from Pune's Muslim community.

Given this evidence, the government should have moved proactively to strengthen physical security in the area, in coordination with the owners of the vulnerable private establishments. According to Mr. Chidambaram, they were alerted about their vulnerability, but nothing more seems to have been done to help them in preventing a terrorist attack. There were too few arrests and interrogations of individuals associated with Mr. Headley.

All this shows that Mr. Chidambaram might have created the right institutional infrastructure for dealing with terrorism, but this infrastructure is yet to start working in a coordinated and effective manner. The result is that India's preventive capability continues to be weak. Institutions are important, but it is even more important to make them work as they should.

Mr. Raman served in India's external intelligence agency from 1968 to 1994 and on the National Security Advisory Board of the government of India from 2000 to 2002.

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, February 13, 2010




Statements and comments from Shri P.Chidambaram, the Home Minister of the Government of India , and officials indicate that the explosion in the well-known and well-frequented German Bakery of Pune around 7 PM on February 13,2010, was an act of terrorism. The case is under investigation by the local police and possibly too by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which came into being after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. According to the latest information, nine persons, including one foreigner, died in the explosion, which appears to have been not a sophisticated one, that could have required any special training. The expertise involved could have been locally acquired. One must control the reflex to point an accusing finger at Pakistan.

2.The NIA's first major investigation was into the travels and activities of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkare-Toiba (LET) and his associate Hussain Rana, also of Chicago, in India to collect operational information required for targeting by the LET. Some of the details collected by Headley were used by the LET in the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai. He had also collected target details about other places of interest including in New Delhi and Pune. These details had not been used till now though his interrogation by the FBI reportedly indicated that the LET was interested in another terrorist strike----this time in New Delhi.

3. Among the targets of interest to Headley in Pune was the local Chabad House, a Jewish cultural-cum-religious centre, which is frequented by Jewish visitors to Pune and the local Rajneesh Ashram frequented by the Western followers of Rajneesh, an Indian spiritual guru, who used to live in the US and was the mentor of some sections of Western youth. Both these places reconnoitred by Headley were near the German Bakery, but neither of them was attacked on February 13. Instead, the German Bakery was targeted.

4. Why the German Bakery? Why not the Chabad House or the Rajneesh Ashram? Why only one explosion? Why not serial explosions well orchestrated as organised by the Indian Mujahideen in Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and New Delhi between November 2007 and September,2008? Is it a lone wolf terrorist strike as one saw over Detroit on Christmas Day when a Nigerian tried unsuccessfully to blow up a US plane as it was getting ready to land in Detroit or did it involve a team of terrorists like the 26/11? What is the significance of the timing? Anything to do with the forthcoming resumption of Indo-Pakistan dialogue on February 25? The dialogue has been under suspension since 26/11. Did the timing have anything to do with the US-UK offensive against the Afghan Taliban in the Helmand province, which got going on Feb.13? Is it a carry-over of the anger against the Germans which Al Qaeda elements from Germany based in Pakistan's tribal belt have been showing since September last? Should India go ahead with the Feb.25 talks with Pakistan or put them on hold till a clear picture emerges?

5. These are questions which have to be addressed by the NIA and the policy-makers in Delhi as the investigation makes headway. The Govt. of India should keep an open mind and look into all possibilities and should avoid over or hasty reactions. Reconstruction and investigation of the explosion should have priority and not retaliation against it.

6. Annexed for ready reference is an article titled "Al Qaeda Warns Germans, Cites Mumbai" written by me on September 21,2008. (14-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )



Al Qaeda Warns Germans, Cites Mumbai - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 558

By B. Raman

Al Qaeda has reportedly warned of a terrorist strike in Germany, similar to the past strikes by pro-Al Qaeda elements in Madrid (March 2004), London (July 2005) and Mumbai, if the German voters do not vote against the present Government of Germany in the elections being held on September 27, 2009.

2. The video message, the warning contained in it and the reference to Madrid are meant to influence the voting through intimidation and bring about a reversal of the German policy of participating in the NATO operations in Afghanistan. While the references to the Madrid and London attacks are clear, it is not clear from the message whether the reference to Mumbai seeks to recall the multiple explosions in suburban trains in July, 2006, or the commando-style attacks with hand-held weapons and explosives by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) on multiple-targets in November, 2008, or both. The responsibility for the July-2006 attacks has not been conclusively established so far.

3. The message seeks to give the impression of Al Qaeda being confident of carrying out its threat in reality if its warning is not heeded. A detailed analysis of the message by Nick Grace, an American counter-terrorism analyst, is available at the web site of the "Long War Journal" of the US, which monitors systematically all developments bearing on international terrorism. It may be seen at The "Long War Journal" and its analyses enjoy a very high level of credibility in international counter-terrorism circles.

4. According to the analysis by Nick Grace, the warning message has been issued by Bekkay Harrach, alias Al Hafidh Abu Talha al Almani, a person of Moroccan origin, who grew up in Germany and then gravitated to Al Qaeda. He is presently believed to be somewhere in the Af-Pak region. Nick Grace points out in his analysis that this is the third warning issued by Harrach this year. Nick Grace says: "His previous warning to Germany, on Jan. 17, 2009, coincided with a massive car bomb attack on the heavily guarded German embassy in Kabul that was orchestrated by the notorious Haqqani Network. Four Afghan civilians and an American soldier died in the attack." His mention of the Haqqani network refers to Jalalludin Haqqani and his son Serajuddin Haqqani, who are reported to be operating from the North Waziristan area of Pakistan. While some sources attributed the huge explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July last year to the LET, other sources suspected the Haqqani network to have been responsible. The Haqqani network is as close to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence as the LET.

5. To quote again from Nick Grace's analysis: Harrach has "warned that if Chancellor Angela Merkel is reelected on Sept. 27, Germany will be directly attacked." Nick Grace adds: "The latest video by Harrach is most striking because its themes and packaging are targeted almost exclusively for a Western audience. Speaking softly in fluent German, without the usual militant or religious props featured in past al Qaeda messages, he stares directly into the camera and only occasionally looks down to turn over the pages of his speech. He never wags his finger or raises his voice. The video carries no subtitling in Arabic. "

6. The picture of Harrach as he appears in the video message has been reproduced by the "Long War Journal" along with the analysis. He is clad in typical Western attire with a suit and a tie. His attire reminds one of the attire worn by the volunteers of the Hizbut Tehrir, which advises its followers to avoid dressing themselves in a manner typical of Muslims. It is likely that if Al Qaeda already has its volunteers in Germany to carry out the threat they may not be attired like Muslims and they may avoid going to mosques and other places frequented by Muslims in order not to draw suspicion upon themselves.

7. If Al Qaeda carries out the threat, will it be an attack with timed explosives as in Madrid and Mumbai--July 2006 or a suicide attack as in London or a commando-style attack with hand-held weapons as in Mumbai--26/11? Will it be an attack confined to public transportation systems as in Madrid, London and Mumbai-July 2006 or will it be in public places as in Mumbai--26/11? These are important questions, which would certainly be factored into by the German counter-terrorism authorities while planning their strategy to frustrate the plans of Al Qaeda.

8. The message, as analysed by Nick Grace, carries an implied assurance that the town of Kiel might not be attacked. This assurance is puzzling because on August 20, 2006, the German police had arrested a Muslim from the Lebanon studying in the Kiel University on a charge of placing a timed explosive device (a suitcase bomb) on a commuter train in Dortmund on July 31,2006. It failed to explode. They managed to identify him through a closed circuit TV footage, which showed him placing the suitcase in a train. Another suitcase bomb, timed to explode at the same time, had been placed in a train at Koblenz. That too failed to explode. It is not known whether the police were able to identify and arrest the person who placed the second suit case bomb. The German media had reported that the identification of the first man was made possible by a tip-off from an unnamed foreign intelligence agency. These two incidents had indicated as early as 2006 that pro-Al Qaeda elements were wanting to target the public transportation system in Germany.

9. This is the second instance when there has been a reference to Mumbai in messages attributed to Al Qaeda. In a telephonic message to the British Broadcasting Corporation in the second week of February, 2009, Mustafa Abu-al Yazid, who has been projected since 2007 as in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan in liaison with the Neo Taliban of Mulla Mohammad Omar, warned India in the following words: “We send a short and succinct message to the Indian Government. The Mujahideen will never allow you to invade the Muslims and their lands in Pakistan. If you beguile yourselves into doing this, know well that you will pay a very heavy price, which you will regret much. We will call upon our whole Muslim nation, its Mujahideen and its martyrdom squads against you. We will strike your interests and your economic lifelines wherever they may be until you are demolished and bankrupt as America is being demolished and going bankrupt today. The Islamic nation which produced the audacious and heroic martyrs of Bombay, who struck you in the midst of your homes and humiliated you, is able to produce thousands more like them. You cannot be more powerful or have more ability than the Soviet Union which was destroyed on the rocks of the Afghanistan mountains nor Americans whose nose we rubbed in the dirt of Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.” The authenticity of the message could not be established.




Eight persons are reported to have been killed and 40 others injured in a suspected bomb blast in the well-known German bakery of Pune, which is often frequented by foreigners visiting Pune. The city also reportedly has a Chabad House, a Jewish cultural-cum-religious centre. Further details as to whether it was an act of terrorism, what kind of explosive was used etc are awaited.

2. Pune as a possible centre for jihadi activities came to notice in March 2002, when Abu Zubaidah, the then No.3 to Osama bin Laden, was arrested by the Pakistani authorities acting at the instance of the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in the house of an activist of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) at Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab and handed over to the FBI. He is now in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre in Cuba. Sections of the Pakistani media had reported at that time that Abu Zubaidah, a Palestinian, had studied computer science in Pune before crossing over into Pakistan and joining Al Qaeda.

3.In September-October,2008, the Mumbai Police had arrested four IT-savvy members of the Indian Mujahideen ( IM), who had played a role in sending E-mail messages in the name of the IM before and after the Ahmedabad blasts of July,2008, and before the New Delhi blasts of September,2008, by hacking into Wi-fi networks in Mumbai and Navin Mumbai. Three of them were from Pune. The four persons were:

* Mohammed Mansoor Asgar Peerbhoy aka Munawar aka Mannu. A 31-year-old resident of Pune, who was allegedly working for an American Internet company in its India office as a well-paid executive.
* Mubin Kadar Shaikh, a 24-year-old graduate of computer science from Pune.
* Asif Bashir Shaikh, a 22-year-old mechanical engineer from Pune. In addition to helping in sending the E-mail messages, he also reportedly played a role in planting 18 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Surat, all of which failed to explode.
* Mohammed Ismail Chaudhary, a 28-year-old computer mechanic, who is also suspected to have helped in planting the IEDs in Surat.

4. Peerbhoy was reported to have joined the IM while he was studying Arabic in Pune's Quran Foundation, which seems to have served as a favourite recruiting ground for jihadi terrorism. In this connection, reference is invited to my note titled INDIA AS POSSIBLE WEB OF CYBER TERRORISM at

5. Pune and its Chabad House again figured prominently in recent media reports of the visits to India by David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the LET presently facing trial in Chicago on charges of helping the LET in carrying out the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai by collecting operational details about the targets to be attacked. Pune was one of the places reportedly visited by him for allegedly collecting target information for the LET. ( 13-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Wednesday, February 10, 2010




As US and UK troops get ready for a new offensive against the Afghan Taliban in the Helmand area of Afghanistan, suspected elements from the Tehrilk-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have attacked supplies meant for the NATO as they were being moved from Karachi after being unloaded from ships which had brought them to Karachi.

2. At least two incidents have been reported by the "Daily Times" of Lahore. In the first incident, which took place on January 29,2010, a convoy of trucks carrying supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan from the Karachi port was attacked by unidentified elements as the convoy was leaving the city through the Northern Bypass. In another incident reported on February 10,2010, a group of 18 armed men attacked and hijacked a convoy carrying logistic supplies to the NATO forces in the same area. The same paper has reported that unidentified elements tried unsuccessfully to attack the office of the Karachi Port Trust, but were beaten back by the security guards in the building. It has not given the date of the attack.

3. These attacks have come in the wake of reports that terrorists of the TTP, who were previously active in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan, have moved into Karachi and are trying to step up attacks on port establishments, logistics convoys and ships bringing supplies to Karachi.A 2000 USS Cole type attempt on a US ship visiting Karachi is a growing possibility.

4. In the meanwhile, localised elements associated with the ideology of the TTP, but not forming part of the TTP mainstream, have stepped up their attacks on the Pakistani security forces in the tribal belt. A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into a khasadar (tribal police)patrol vehicle on February 10 in the Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency, killing 17 people, including 11 khasadar personnel. The incident took place on the Pak-Afghan highway.A Brigadier was killed and a Colonel and a Lieutenant were injured after suspected Taliban elements in Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley attacked a rescue team sent to the scene of a crashed Cobra helicopter on February 10. Two occupants of the helicopter, including its pilot, were killed. No explanation has been forthcoming as to why a Brigadier was sent on the rescue mission.

5.According to an account published by the "News", two gunship helicopters were sent to the Tirah Valley, a remote and forested mountainous area of the Khyber Agency, to bomb hide-outs of militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Islam led by Mangal Bagh. The militants managed to shoot down one of them. Two more helicopters were sent on a rescue mission. As the helicopters touched down, its occupants were attacked on the ground. (11-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Wednesday, February 3, 2010




The death of three US soldiers (Marines?), living under civilian cover in the Lower Dir District of the Malakand Division of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, in an explosion which a struck a convoy in which they were reportedly traveling with some Pakistani security forces personnel on February 3,2010, has been confirmed by the US Embassy in Islamabad.

2. Initially, the killed Americans were projected as journalists or as employees of the US Agency For International Development (AID), but subsequently, the US Embassy admitted that they were military personnel deployed in the area on a training-cum- civil construction mission. They were posted in the area to train personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC), a para-military unit headquartered in Peshawar and consisting largely of Pashtuns recruited in the NWFP and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

3.Since 2005, there have been many reported instances of the penetration of the FC by the Pakistani Taliban and collusion of many FC personnel with the Taliban. There were also instances of the desertions of a large number of FC personnel to the Taliban during the fighting in the South Waziristan area.

4. Despite such instances, the US had proposed a project for the training of the FC personnel by members of the US Special Forces units and for undertaking civil construction projects in remote rural areas in the hope of thereby helping the FC win the hearts and minds of the local tribals and weaning them away from supporting the Taliban. This project, which was accepted by the Pakistan Government, has been under implementation for over a year.

5.The training project has two components. Under the first component, selected commissioned officers of the FC are taken to the US for special training. Under the second component, selected non-commissioned officers and other ranks are trained locally in the NEFP, but not in the FATA.

6.The three US military personnel killed on February 3 were reportedly proceeding in a convoy escorted by the FC to attend the inauguration of a school for girls constructed by the voluntary labour of the FC personnel and the US trainers. Available details regarding the incident are confusing. Some reports suggest the explosion was triggered off either by a suicide bomber or through a remote control device as the convoy was proceeding to the venue of the function. If this was so, it is not clear, as to how, many girls, who had assembled at the venue, were injured. A possibility is that the explosion struck the convoy just as it arrived at the venue.

7.It is also not clear whether the explosion specifically targeted the US military personnel or it merely targeted the girls school because the Taliban is opposed to girls’ education and the US personnel who were there got killed. A person, who claimed to be the spokesman of the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed that the Taliban carried out the attack and alleged that the three US military personnel were actually working for Blackwater, a US security firm employed by the US Government for physical security and training purposes in the Af-Pak area.

8.The Dir area of the Malakand Division is the native place of Sufi Mohammad, the founder of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), a component of the TTP, which had established its control over the Swat Valley of the Malakand Division under the leadership of Maulana Fazlullah, son-in-law of Sufi Mohammad, who is a native of Swat. In operations undertaken towards the end of 2008 and in the beginning of 2009, the Pakistani Army managed to eject the TNSM from the Malakand Division, including Lower and Upper Dir and Swat. Its leaders evaded capture or death and managed to escape.

9.The explosion of February 3 shows that while the TNSM and its associates in the area may have lost their territorial control in the area, they still have some capability for random attacks with explosive devices. The incident is unlikely to affect the training programme of the US. What is significant is not the success of the terrorists on February 3, but their inability to identify and target US military trainers till now despite the fact that they have been operating in the area for over a year now. This speaks well of the high level of security of the training programme.

10.In the meanwhile, rumours regarding the death of Hakimullah, the Amir of the TTP, on January 26, 2010, as a result of the injuries sustained by him in a US Drone strike on January 14,2010, continue to persist despite the repeated denial of these rumours by the TTP. There is no way of establishing the veracity of these rumours unless the TTP itself decides to admit the truth, if he is really dead, as it did after a delay in the case of the death of his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud in a Drone strike in August last.

11.What is clear is that despite the spectacular success of the TTP in getting seven CIA officers and one Jordanian intelligence officer killed in the Khost area of Afghanistan on December 30,2009, through a Jordanian double agent, it seems to be facing difficulties in Pakistani territory due to relentless air strikes by the US with its Drones and the Pakistani Army operations in the South Waziristan area. It has lost territorial control in the Mehsud area in South Waziristan and the disruption of its command and control has resulted in the senior leaders of the organization such as Hakimullah himself if he is still alive, Waliur Rehman, its leader in charge of South Waziristan, and Qari Hussain Mehsud, in charge of its suicide wing, being forced to move from place to place in non-Mehsud areas in order to escape attacks by the US Drones. This has added to their vulnerability and affected their ability to carry out spectacular terrorist strikes in the non-tribal areas. The TTP seems to be a weakened , but not a defeated force.

12. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article titled CIA: Alive & Kicking at . (4-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )