Monday, March 30, 2009




The commando-style suicidal raid by a group of unidentified terrorists into the heavily-guarded Police Academy at Manawan in the Lahore area on March 30, 2009, should be of concern to India and the rest of the international community for two reasons. Twenty police personnel are reported to have been killed in the raid into the police academy and its occupation by a group of 10 to 12 terrorists. The occupation lasted seven hours before the para-military forces intervened and terminated it. According to the Pakistani authorities, four terrorists died and six have been captured.

2. The first reason is the renewed use by the Pakistan-based terrorists of the old modus operandi of commando style swarm attacks with hand-held weapons. The first of these attacks was seen in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, the second in Kabul on February 11,2009,and the third on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on March 3,2009. The fourth has now been seen in the Lahore area at Manawan, about 12 kms from the Indian border in the Wagah sector. While the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan was found to have been responsible for the Mumbai attack, the Afghan and Pakistani authorities have not been able to establish the identity of the organisation or organisations behind the Kabul and the March 3 Lahore attacks. Rehman Malik, the Pakistani Internal Security Adviser, has voiced the suspicion that the Pakistani Taliban must have been responsible for the Manawan attack. Although the Pakistani authorities claim to have arrested six of those involved in the Manawan attack, they have not yet been able to establish their identity.

3. The second reason for concern arises from the possibility that if it was so easy for a group of 10 to 12 terrorists wearing police uniforms and wielding assault rifles to raid and occupy for seven hours a heavily-guarded establishment like the Police Academy in the Lahore area, it should be equally easy for a similar group to raid and occupy a Pakistani nuclear establishment. The terrorists have repeatedly seen in Kabul and Lahore how easy it is to surprise and overwhem at least temporarily the security personnel guarding the buildings targeted by them. More such incidents involving a similar MO are to be apprehended. We in India cannot remain complacent thinking wishfully that what happened in Lahore cannot happen in India. It can--- and it did in Mumbai.

4. However, it must be said to the credit of the Indian security forces that commando-style attacks with hand-held weapons on hard, heavily-guarded targets have invariably been beaten back by the security forces guarding them. One could cite as examples the unsuccessful terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament House in New Delhi in December,2001, on the Akshardam Temple in Ahmedabad in September,2002, and on the training centre of the Central Reserve Police Force in Rampur in Uttar Pradesh in January,2008. The terrorists succeeded temporarily in Mumbai because the buildings targeted by them were private establishments, which were soft targets with no protection of trained security forces.

5.The only similarity between the Mumbai attack and the Manawan attack is the resort by the terrorists to commando-style suicidal attacks. There are some differences. The first difference is that at Mumbai --- as subsequently in Kabul--- the terrorists attacked multiple targets, whereas in Lahore on March 3 and in Manawan on March 30, the terrorists attacked a single target. The second difference is that at Mumbai the terrorists attacked innocent civilians, including foreigners, in unprotected soft areas, but in Kabul and Manawan, the terrorists attacked heavily protected public servants---- the personnel of the jail department at Kabul and policemen and polifce cadets at Manawan. The Sri Lankan cricketeers, though civilians, were heavily protected. Despite this, the terrorists managed to attack them and get away.

6. It should be of great concern to the international community that none of the major terrorist strikes of the last two years in Pakistan have been successfully detected by the Pakistani intelligence and police though they claimed to have identified the suspects and arrested some of them. Among the major undetected cases are the unsuccessful attempt to kill Benazir Bhutto at Karachi on October 18,2007, her assassination at Rawalpindi on December 27,2007, the explosion in the Marriott Hotel of Islamabad in September,2008, and the March 3 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team at Lahore.

7. Is this string of undetected major cases merely an indicator of police incompetence or , more ominously, is this also due to the complicity of elements from the Police and the military-intelligence establishment with the perpetrators of the attacks? (30-3-09)

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

Sunday, March 29, 2009



President Barack Obama's new comprehensive Af-Pak strategy unveiled on March 27,2009, to deal with a mix of cancerous problems might impress and enthuse the new Internet generation with which Obama feels comortable, but not Indian professionals in terrorism withtheir feet firmly on the ground in this region. These problems arise from the continuing old Islamic insurgency of the 1980s vintage inAfghanistan, the new post-Lal Masjid raid Islamic insurgency in Pakistan, the continuing jihadi terrorism with many faces--- anti- West, anti-Indian, anti-Afghan, anti-Israeli, anti-Russian, anti-Chinese, anti-infidels and anti-apostates -- from sanctuaries and breeding grounds in Pakistan and the continuing spread of radical ideas justifying the use of terrorism from the madrasas of Pakistan

2. Former President George Bush left for Obama a bleeding stalemate with no end in sight. As a descriptive analysis of the kind of situationin the Af-Pak region inherited by him from Bush, Obama's new strategic broth to which many cooks have contributed, has shown a clearunderstanding of the problems confronting him in this region. Bush and his advisers were not as articulate as Obama and his advisers areand not as word-smart, but they too had come to a similar conclusion though not in as smart a language. Their conclusion was: Pakistan isthe source of the plethora of problems faced in the region and unless and until that source is tackled effectively the bleeding will continue.

3. Obama and his advisers suffer from the same prescriptive deficiency as their predecessors. This deficiency arises from their tendency tomix facts with illusions. The facts were as clear to Bush and his advisers as they are now to Obama and his advisers. These are theexistence in the Pakistani territory of the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda, the Pashtun Taliban and the Punjabi Taliban organisations with theLashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) in the forefront and the role of the Pakistan Army and its Inter-ServicesIntelligence (ISI) in nursing them to serve what they perceive as Pakistan's strategic interests.

4. The prescriptive part of Obama's strategy is as full of illusions as the strategy of Bush was. There is a common root cause for the illusionsof the two Administrations. The root cause is their inability to understand that the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment hasconvinced itself that Pakistan, which had lost its strategic relevance in the immediate aftermath of the end of the cold war,has acquired anew strategic importance.This is thanks to the terrorists of various hues operating from its territory and its nuclear arsenal. The continuedexistence of these terrorists is in its interest.Action against terrorism when unavoidable, support for terrorism when possible. That is itspolicy.It has been using its nuclear arsenal not only in an attempt to intimidate India and deter it from retaliating for terrorist strikes in Indian territory, but also to deter the US and the rest of the West from exercising too much pressure on it to deal with the terroristsanctuaries in its territory.

5.Unless the mind of the Pakistani military and intelligence officers is disabused of this belief and they are made to co-operate with theinternational community in destroying the terrorist infrastructure in its territory, no strategy is going to work in ending jihadi terrorism bredin Pakistan. The major deficiency in the prescriptive analysis of Obama arises from his naive assumption that Pakistan can be made toco-operate more effectively against terrorism through a basket of incentives---- more military and economic assistance, more training, anemphasis on the continuing importance of Pakistan even after the war on terrorism is over etc.

6. Bush too hailed Pakistan as a frontline ally in the war against terrorism and provided it with various lollipops--- over US$ 10 billion inmilitary and economic aid since 9/11, dual-use weapons and equipment which could be used against the terrorists as well as against Indiaand a willingness to close the eyes to Pakistan's sins of commission and omission against India so long as it acted against terrorismdirected at the US. These lollipops failed to make the regime of Pervez Musharraf co-operate sincerely against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.These incentives could not prevent the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan from staging a spectacular come-back from sanctuaries in Pakistan andAl Qaeda and its associates from organising acts of terrorism in different parts of the world.

7. The lessons from the failure of the strategy of Bush were: Firstly, a policy based only on incentives will not work in the case of aninsincere state such as Pakistan. Secondly, a policy which makes a distinction between terrorism directed against the US and terrorismdirected against India and the rest of the world will be ineffectve. Thirdly, the fear of exercising too much pressure on Pakistan lest theState collapse and its nuclear arsenal fall into jihadi hands is exploited by Pakistan to prevent the ultimate success of the war againstterrorism.

8.One was hoping----on the basis of the statements by him during his election campaign--- that Obama would have factored these lessonsinto the formulation of his new strategy. Surprisingly, he has not. The same old policy of incentives and nothing but incentives is sought tobe pursued under the garb of a so-called new strategy. The only new feature is the emphasis on the benchmarks of implementation whichwill determine the continued availability of the incentives to Pakistan at every stage. The only disincentive with which Pakistan has beenconfronted is the risk of the incentives drying up if it is seen as dragging its feet in its co-operation in the fight against terrorism.

9. Obama's strategy ---like the one of his predecessor--- is marked by a fear of punishing Pakistan if it does not change its policy of usingterrorists to advance its own strategic agenda. The reluctance to punish Pakistan if it continues to be insincere in dealing with terrorismoriginating from its territory arises from the fear that too much pressure on Pakistan and a policy of punitive measures might push Pakistaninto the arms of the jihadis or might result in a collapse of the Pakistani State with unpredictable consequences.The US must rid itself ofthis fear and make it clear to Pakistan that, if the worst comes to the worst, the world is prepared to face the eventuality of a failedPakistan. A failed Pakistan may be a disaster for the people of Pakistan, but not necessarily for the rest of the world.

10. It is important to constitute a contact group to work out alternative strategies with incentives as well as disincentives, with rewards aswell as punishments. Such a contact group must be only of the victims of terrorism. A contact group, which seeks to bring together thevictims of terrorism as well as the perpetrator, will be a non-starter.

11. Obama's strategy has three components--- a counter-insurgency component for Afghanistan, a counter- terrorism component for use inPakistan and a counter-radicalisation component for use in the entire Af-Pak region. It is a mix of military and political measures. While themilitary measures will be largely implemented by the US and other NATO powers plus Australia, the regional role of countries such as India,China and Iran is sought to be restricted to the political component. They will have no say in the way the military measures areimplemented.

12. The US expectations that the international community will co-operate in implementing the unilaterally worked out US strategy can bebelied because the strategy offers no end in sight to the wave of terrorism of Pakistani origin faced by them. This is particularly true ofIndia. Even though the strategy projects Al Qaeda and its associates operating from sanctuaries in Pakistan as posing a threat to the worldas a whole, its objective is limited to preventing another 9/11 in US territory mounted from this region. It does not pay equal attention to theconcerns of India and other countries. The strategy is, therefore, unlikely to excite professionals in India. (30-3-09)

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

Thursday, March 26, 2009




There have been two more missile strikes from Predator (unmanned) aircraft on suspected terrorists in the South and North Waziristanareas of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. With these, there have been seven Predator strikes carried out by theUS Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the tribal belt of Pakistan since President Barack Obama assumed office on January 20,2009.

2. The first of these strikes carried out on March 25,2009, targeted two vehicles--- a pick-up and a car--- which were moving on a kacharoad (non-metalled country road) near the Makeen area of South Waziristan. Seven terrorists, believed to be Uzbecks and Arabs, werereportedly killed. While there is no doubt about their links with Al Qaeda, they seem to be low-level operatives of the organisation.

3.The second of these strikes targeted the house of a tribal leader by name Malik Gulab Khan in an area called Essokhel, 30 Kms from thetown of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, on March 26,2009, killing fours persons. All of them are believed to be Pakistani supporters of the Taliban.There have been no local protest demonstrations against the two strikes indicating a lack of local anger over the deaths of these persons.This would indicate that the locals do not believe that those killed were innocent civilians.

4. The first strike on two moving vehicles was more significant than the second strike on a building. Shortly after the vehicles carrying theterrorists started moving on the road, a Predator aircraft appeared over them and fired two missiles hitting both vehicles. This precise information about the movement of the vehicles, which led to the instantaneous Predator strike, could not have come from human intelligence. A possibility is that the inmates of the vehicle were speaking over phone and their conversation was intercepted by the US technical intelligence units operating on the Afghan side. Or a greater possibility is that the US has one or more spy-in-the-sky satellites over the FATA, which are keeping a continuous watch over all vehicular movements in the area. The vehicles targeted had probably come to the notice of the CIA earlier as being used by the terrorists and the moment their movement on the road was detected by a satellite, thePredators, which were already over the area, went into action. The local villagers have been quoted by some sections of the Pakistani media as saying that Predators had been flying over the area for some hours prior to the attack. They did not blindly target any vehicle.They precisely targeted the two vehicles by which the seven terrorists were travelling. It is not clear whether the Americans knew beforehand that these persons were Uzbecks and Arabs or came to know of it only after they had hit the vehicles and killed them. (26-3-09)

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009



Eight members of the Army, one of them a Major, and 17 terrorists are reported to have been killed in a series of encounters between patrolsof the army and five different groups of terrorist infiltrators from the Pakistani territory in densely-forested areas of the Kupwara district ofJammu & Kashmir. The encounters, which started on March 20,2009, lasted five days.

2. The Army has stated that the encounters were the result of proactive action taken by it on receipt of human intelligence about theinfiltration of the terrorists. The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), which has claimed responsibility for the encounters, has tried to project them as inresponse to a surprise action launched by it which, according to it, started with an ambush of an army patrol. Media reports from the areahave described the encounters as one of the fiercest gun battles in that area in recent years. The infiltration of the LET terrorists into theKupwara area and their encounters with the army patrols have come in the wake of a significant improvement in the ground situation in J&Klast year, which made possible the peaceful holding of the elections to the local Legislative Assembly. The elections saw a record voterturn-out.

3.Addressing a media conference on December 25,2008, Kuldeep Khoda, the Director-General of Police of J&K, had said: ("The Hindu" ofDecember 26, 2008):

Terrorist violence showed a remarkable decline of 40 per cent in 2008 as compared to 2007.

Civilian deaths at the hands of the terrorists, which reached a peak of 1413 in 1996, came down to 164 in 2007 and only 89 in 2008.

48 political activists, including a Minister, were killed by terrorists during the 2002 election campaign. They could not kill a single political activist during the election campaign of 2008.

For the first time, 2008 witnessed the best ever performance of the police and the security forces on the human rights front. There was only one complaint of death in police custody and no complaint of disappearance from police custody.

At the same time, he warned against complacency and pointed out that there were still 800 trained terrorists----300 of them foreigners, mainly Pakistanis---- in the State waiting for an opportunity to step up terrorism.

4. Since the elections in November-December last, the improvement in the ground situation achieved by the security forces last yearcontinued to hold, but there was an increase in agitprop incidents in the urban areas in the form of orchestrated demonstrations overallegations of violations of the human rights of local residents by the security forces. Through the present infiltration and the consequentclashes lasting five days, the LET has sought to achieve three objectives----firstly, to demonstrate that it is still a force to be reckoned withand secondly, to convey a message to the people of J&K that despite the so-called action taken by the Pakistani authorities against theLET after the Mumbai terrorist attack in response to international pressure, the LET's terrorist acts in J&K will not be affected. Thirdly, theLET has also sought to strengthen the arguments of those in the West such as David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, who claim thatunless attention is paid to solving Indo-Pakistan differences on the Kashmir issue, jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory will continue insome form or the other.

5.When he was the President till August last year, Pervez Musharraf used to make a distinction between acts of terrorism in J&K which heprojected as a legitimate freedom struggle not amounting to terrorism and acts in Indian territory outside J&K which, he admitted, wereacts of terrorism. He did not deny the activities of the LET in J&K, but projected it as an indigenous Kashmiri organisation having rootcauses for its actions. He did not accept that the LET was active in the Indian territory outside J&K.

6. The encounters between the Army and the LET in the Kupwara area during the last five days clearly show that the Government ofPresident Asif Ali Zardari is following the same policy as Musharraf. It is following a policy of legitimising the terrorist acts of the LET inJ&K and, at the same time, pretending to co-operate with the Government of India in the investigation of the LET's terrorist strike inMumbai.

7.The heavily-forested Kupwara is not the sprawling urban Mumbai. Encounters within forests have nothing in common with encounterswith terrorists entrenched inside urban buildings and going on a shooting spree in crowded public places in a big city such as Mumbai. Butthere are disconcerting similarities between what happened in Mumbai between November 26 and 29,2008, and between what hashappened during the last five days in the Kupwara area----- simultaneous, well-orchestrated attacks on multiple targets, whether static ormoving army patrols, a skilful use of hand-held weapons and gadgets such as GPS systems, suicidal and not suicide terrorism, strike, stayand fight tactics instead of the hit and vanish tactics and an ability to keep the encounters with the security forces going for a long time inorder to make an impact on the local population and the international community through dramatic media reports.

8. In the weeks before the polls, it will be the aim of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the terrorists sponsored by it to step up violencein J&K through so-called indigenous Kashmiri organisations and to encourage elements belonging to the Indian Mujahideen and its ally theStudents' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which have not committed any major act of terrorism after the Delhi blasts of September,2008,to strike again.

9. These have to be factored into our security plan for the elections. (25-3-09)

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2009



The need for a regional counter-terrorism strategy to be spear-headed by India and the US for eradicating all terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistani territory has been one of the themes of my writings and lectures in the last two years. Extracts from two of the articles written by me on this subject on October 11,2008, and January 1,2009, are annexed.

2. It has been my belief that unless and until the US takes the initiative for such a strategy focused on eradicating all terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistani territory India will continue to bleed at the hands of jihadi terrorists spawned in Pakistan and the US will meet the same fate in Afghanistan as the erstwhile USSR did in the 1980s.

3.President Barack Obama’s strategy for the Af-Pak region is still unfolding in bits and pieces. A surge of 16,000 troops to start with and intensified Predator strikes on terrorist hide-outs and training camps in Pakistani territory are two components of this strategy, which are already under implementation. His administration has also been expanding the geographic and target spread of the Predator strikes. From North and South Waziristan and the Bajaur Agency in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the geographic area of the strikes has been extended to the Kurram Agency in the FATA. The Bannu area in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which was already targeted once by the Bush Administration, has been receiving more attention from the advisers of Obama.

4. The targets are also expanding. The initial targeting under the Bush Administration was mainly against the hide-outs and training camps of Al Qaeda and its associates such as the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union, which is also an Uzbeck group with many Europeans in it. Under Obama, the targets have been expanded to cover the hide-outs and training camps of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in all these areas and of Gulbuddin Heckmatyar’s Hizbe-Islami in the Kurram Agency.

5. A report carried by “the New York Times” and reproduced by the “Times of India” of March 19,2009, indicates that the Obama Administration is also examining the advisability of hitting at the hide-outs and training camps of the Afghan Taliban in Quetta and some other areas of Balochistan adjoining the border with Afghanistan. Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Neo Taliban, and his advisers are operating from sanctuaries in these areas.

6. In order to weaken the movement for Baloch independence , the late Gen.Zia-ul-Haq had got settled a large number of Afghan Pashtun refugees in these areas and given them Pakistani citizenship. It is in the midst of these pockets of citizens or residents of Afghan origin that the command and control of the Neo Taliban is located. Unless and until this command and control is targeted and eliminated, the US and other NATO troops will not be able to win the war against terrorism in the Af-Pak region.

7. Predator strikes on the sanctuaries of the Neo Taliban in the areas of Balochistan adjoining the Afghan border will be more difficult and tricky than the strikes now being carried out in the FATA. The targeted Balochistan areas may not be as sparsely populated as the targeted FATA areas. Unless there is precise intelligence, the dangers of civilian killings will be more. Human intelligence collection in the FATA area has already improved, indicating new capabilities now available to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in this region. US intelligence officials must be confident of similar precise intelligence in respect of Balochistan too. Otherwise, recommendations would not have been made to Obama to expand the attacks to cover sanctuaries in Balochistan.

8. It is important that Obama gives his clearance to this recommendation as quickly as possible before the Neo Taliban launches its summer offensive in Afghanistan from its sanctuaries in the Balochistan area.

9. The policy already being followed by Obama and the change now recommended cover only attacks on the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and its associates, the Neo Taliban, the TTP and the Hizb-e-Islami. They do not cover the group of five organizations----the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ)---- which are commonly referred to in Pakistan as the Punjabi Taliban.

10. The JEM has been helping the TTP in the Swat Valley of the NWFP. The LET has been helping the Neo Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami in the Kabul area. It was involved in the explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul in the first week of July last year. The HUM, the HUJI and the LEJ have been active in the tribal belt since the 1990s.

11. These organizations, except the LEJ, have been behind most acts of jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory. Unless the new US counter-terrorism strategy covers the terrorist infrastructure of the Punjabi Taliban too, the results will not be satisfactory.

12. It is here that the question of Indo-US operational co-operation comes in. The counter-terrorism co-operation between the intelligence agencies of India and the US has till now been confined to intelligence-sharing, mutual legal assistance in investigation of terrorist incidents and training for capacity building. Joint operations are practically nil.

13. The time has come for considering joint operations in the form of some of the Predators operating from bases in Indian territory and joint covert actions against the Punjabi Taliban. Such joint operations will be in the mutual interests of the two countries. (19-3-09)

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

Extract from my article dated October 11,2008 and titled “Seven Years of OP Enduring Freedom: No Light Yet” at

The US and other NATO forces may want a political face-saving because they are not doing well in the fighting, but why should the Taliban Commanders want one when they think they are winning? The same is the situation on the Pakistan side of the border. The TTP thinks it is doing well against the Pakistani security forces. Why should it agree to a compromise without achieving its objective?

Gen . David Petraeus, who was till recently the Commander of the US forces in Iraq, is shortly taking over as the Commander of the US Central Command (has since taken over). In that capacity, he will be responsible for the strategy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. In Iraq, he successfully drove a wedge between the secular Iraqi resistance fighters and the Wahabised Arab terrorists of Al Qaeda. There is a talk that he might try a similar approach in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region by driving a wedge between the Taliban on both sides of the border and the Al Qaeda remnants. He succeeded in Iraq because the former Baathists of Saddam Hussein's Army, who constituted the resistance fighters, were secular and did not like the Wahabised Al Qaeda. But, in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Wahabism provides the binding ties which strongly unite the Talibans with Al Qaeda. They all feel that the future of Islam is going to be decided in the fight against the US-led NATO forces. They have two common objectives--- the defeat and withdrawal of the NATO forces and the proclamation of an Islamic sharia-based rule in the entire region. So long as these objectives unite them, the Talibans are unlikely to agree to separate peace with the NATO forces. Media reports of a split between the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda have not been substantiated.

Unless and until the US is able to hunt down and kill at least bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mulla Omar, there is unlikely to be a change in the ground situation. Instead of nursing illusions of engineering a split between Al Qaeda and the Taliban and negotiating a separate peace with the Taliban, the US should focus on eliminating the Al Qaeda leadership. That was the main objective of Op Enduring Freedom and that should continue to be its main objective.

Extract from my article dated January 1,2009, and titled “Jihadi Terrorism--- 2008 & 2009: Part II & Last” at

The success of the new policy will depend upon the neutralisation of the sanctuaries in Pakistani territory which keep the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighting against the US. The neutralisation of the sanctuaries of the Taliban is necessary for the success of the US-led forces and the ANA (Afghan National Army) in Afghanistan. Without the neutralisation of the Al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistani territory, the US cannot be free of fears of another 9/11 in the US homeland. Military and intelligence officers of the US realise that the US objectives vis-a-vis Al Qaeda and the Taliban cannot be met unless these sanctuaries are wiped out and the surviving leadership of Al Qaeda is neutralised. They also realise that missile and Predator strikes alone (over 30 during 2008 as compared to 10 during the previous two years) cannot achieve their objective unless combined with clandestine strikes by land-based stealth forces. They did attempt one such strike in September in South Waziristan. It was not successful and the furore in Pakistan over it led to their abandoning any more land-based strikes in Pakistani territory.

The US finds itself in the same position as the USSR found itself in Afghanistan before it decided to quit in 1988. The Soviet troops avoided land-based action against the sanctuaries of the Afghan Mujahideen in Pakistani territory. They confined their retaliatory strikes to Scud missiles fired at the suspected hide-outs of the Mujahideen in Pakistani territory. The civilian deaths caused by the Scuds added to the anger among the Afghan refugees and strengthened their determination to step up their attacks on the Soviet troops in Afghan territory and on Soviet convoys taking logistics supplies to the far-flung Soviet posts. The Mujahideen's success in disrupting the logistics supplies was one of the factors, which contributed to the Soviet decision to quit.

The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, advised by retired officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) such as Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, are following against the US-led forces the same strategy which the Mujahideen had followed against the Soviet troops-----keeping them bleeding and trying to starve them of essential supplies. In addition to keeping up a high level of suicide and other terrorism in Afghan territory to disrupt road movements of troops and supplies and weaken the control of the ANA in towns, they have stepped up their attacks on road movement of supplies for the NATO forces from Karachi. The US is trying to work out alternate routes through Russia, Georgia and the Central Asian Republics (CARs). It remains to be seen how satisfactory the proposed new supply routes will be.

When Obama's advisers talk of a regional strategy, they mean being responsive to Pakistan's perceived unhappiness and concerns. If they do it, they can exercise more pressure on the Pakistan Army to deal with the sanctuaries and if and when Pakistan does it, it will benefit not only the US, but also India. So their argument goes. This is pure wishful thinking and betrays a failure to comprehend the Pakistani mind-set. Pakistan looks upon the various terrorist groups operating from its territory ----whether against India or Afghanistan or the US---- as strategic assets to limit the power of India and its influence in Afghanistan and the CARs. It is not going to voluntarily give up these perceived assets, unless forced to do so.

The inaction or inability or both of successive Pakistan Governments has enabled Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the anti-India terrorist organisations, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Group ( (IJG) and radicalised members of the Pakistani diaspora in Europe and North America acquire a strategic depth in the tribal belt of Pakistan from where they can operate wherever they want all over the world----whether against India or Afghanistan or the West or Russia or even against Pakistan if it co-operates too closely with the US.

What the Obama administration would need is a regional strategy to eliminate the terrorirst sanctuaries in Pakistani territory and to deprive the jihadi terrorists of the world of the strategic depth which they presently enjoy in Pakistani territory. This is a strategy on which the US and India can closely collaborate as and when Obama and his advisers come out of their present mode of wishful thinking.

Sunday, March 15, 2009




An audio message purporting to be from Osma bin Laden has been broadcast by the Al Jazeera TV channel on March 14,2009. The messageis believed to be authentic. This is the second audio message of bin Laden got disseminated by Al Qaeda's propaganda set-up this year. Theearlier one was disseminated in January through the Internet.

2.The main theme of both the messages is the fighting between the Israeli security forces and the people of Gaza. In his latest message,bin Laden has described the actions of the Istaeli security forces in Gaza as Gaza's holocaust and has accused some Arab leaders of beingcomplicit with the Israelis in their operations in Gaza. He has called for renewed support to the anti-US jihad in Iraq and for a jihad inJordan and in the area administered by the Palestine Authority as a prelude to the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem with its Al Aqsamosque from the control of Israel. The message is critical of Hassan Nasrallah of the Hizbollah too and says: "There is no difference in thisissue between Hassan and Hosni (Mubarak) and the rest of the Arab idol-kings who have besieged our family there (in Palestine). "

3. It also accuses Jews and Christians "of carrying out the murder of our brothers in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Waziristan, Somalia,Kashmir, the Philippines and Chechnya." It projects Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and the Islamic Maghreb as among "the open fieldsof jihad.". It says: "I ask Allah to guide us to help the religion and perform Jihad in His Path, so that we liberate the Muslim countries,especially Iraq, and set off from there to Palestine." What the latest message seeks to emphasise is that Jerusalem cannot be liberatedfrom the control of the Israelis without first liberating Iraq, Jordan and the areas under the control of the Palestine Authority. He sees this as a long-term plan and recommends the constitution of a high-power committee of respected religious scholars and others to advise onhow to plan and carry on the struggle for the liberation of Jerusalem and "all of Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the sea."

4. bin Laden's second message of the year has come at a time when President Barack Obama has continued with the former PresidentGeorge Bush's policy of attacking with unmanned Predator aircraft suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda and the Taliban---both the Afghan andthe Pakistani branches--- in Pakistani territory. A new development since Obama assumed office on January 20,2009, is the geographicspread of the attacks from the two Waziristans and the Bajaur Agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to the KurramAgency of the FATA, which has a large Shia population as well as a large number of Sunni Pashtuns from Afghanistan, many of whomsupport either the Afghan and Pakistani Talibans or Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami (HEI).

5. Since Obama took over as the President, there have already been five Predator strikes out of a total of about 30 since Asif Ali Zardari tookover as the President last September. Two of these strikes have been on suspected hide-outs or training camps in the Kurram Agency.These strikes since September last year have been increasingly accurate. While most of them did not kill any high-value Al Qaeda or Talibanor HEI operative, they did kill mostly terrorists supporting the Taliban or the HEI or Al Qaeda. The collateral deaths of innocent civilians wassmall in number. None of these strikes led to any large public demonstration against the US by the locals, thereby indicating that most ofthose killed were terrorists .

6. Those monitoring Pakistani blogs and chat rooms in order to see how those frequenting them react to these Predator attacks wouldhave noticed that, interestingly, whereas in the past, criticism of the Predator strikes was very virulent, it is less so now. One could evensee remarks indicating that many of those posting their reactions do not mind the Predator strikes provided they kill only foreign terroristsmisusing the hospitality of the Pashtuns. There are no signs of the turning of opinion in favour of the Americans, who are still dislikedstrongly, but there are some signs of an "Arab fatigue"----- meaning being fed up with the Arab members of Al Qaeda who are operating in thePashtun belt. However, it is difficult to say whether this "Arab fatigue" is also among the Pashtuns, who have given shelter to Al Qaedaterrorists or is confined to non-Pashtuns living outside the Pashtun belt.

7. The improvement in the flow of human intelligence, which is contributing to the improving success rate of the Predator strikes, and theincreasing number of Pashtuns---some of them Shias--- being killed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on suspicion of being US spiesindicate that after nearly six years of not coming forward with intelligence which could be useful to the US, there are elements now, whichare prepared to take the risk of passing on intelligence to the US. This also speaks of a certain Arab fatigue.

8.Al Qaeda is also nervous about talks of secret contacts between the US and some Taliban elements through the intermediary of theSaudi rulers and officials and about the comments emanating from President Barack Obama and Defence Secretary Robert Gates about the US having an open mind on the question of a possible dialogue with moderate elements in the Taliban. In his message of February 22,2009,titled " From Kabul To Mogadishu", Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to bin Laden, has poured scorn over reports of a possible dialogue andridiculed hopes expressed in the US that it should be possible to drive a wedge between the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

9. Zawahiri said: " O defiant Muslim Afghan people, it is your right to take pride in your sons the Taliban and take pride in Mullah MohammadOmar Mujahid who told the tyrants and criminals---no, we will not hand over a Muslim to an infidel--- and then continued to wage jihad against the Crusaders and their aides and here are the good omens of victory beginning to appear on the horizon. O defiant Muslim Afghanpeople, take part with your brothers and sons the Taliban in the jihad against the American Crusader occupation, which insulted theProphet, violated the sanctity of the Quran and descecrated the soil of Afghanistan."

10. Despite the increase in the flow of intelligence and in the number of successful Predator strikes, none of the over 30 strikes made sinceSeptember last has come anywhere near threatening even remotely bin Laden and Zawahiri. It is apparent from the damage inflicted by thesuccessful strikes that most of the correct information has been about the training camps of the Taliban and the Uzbecks. Some Arabs, whohappened to be present in those camps without the Americans being aware of it, got killed, but they were not the specific targets of thestrikes.

11. The Americans are still groping in the dark in their hunt for bin Laden and Zawahiri. They have not yet been able to find a source whowould be prepared to betray them just as an Iraqi source betrayed Saddam Hussein. None of the reports from reliable Pakistani sources about the Predator strikes indicated that either bin Laden or Zawahiri was anywhere near the place attacked. It is quite likely that binLaden and Zawahiri are either permanently living in a bunker guarded by their Arab bodyguards and avoiding any movement or they areliving in a populated area of the North-West Frontier Province, which is unlikely to be attacked by the Predators due to US fears of causinglarge civilian casualties.

12. The Tajiks of the former Northern Alliance, who have a grudge against bin Laden for having killed Ahmed Shah Masood shortly before9/11, might be useful assets in the hunt for bin Laden, but it is not clear whether the Americans are trying to use them. Neither the Talibannor the Pakistani Army and ISI are likely to betray bin Laden. Other ways of getting at him and Zawahiri have to be explored. (15-3-09)

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




On February 2, 2009, John Solecki, an American national and head of the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees(UNHCR) in Balochistan, was kidnapped in Quetta and his driver shot dead.A hitherto unknown organisation calling itself the BalochistanLiberation United Front (BLUF) subsequently claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and demanded the release of 141 Baloch women andseveral thousand Baloch males, alleged to be in the custody of the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Till now, Solecki has not been traced bythe Pakistani security forces, who do not seem to have any idea of the organisation behind the kidnapping.

2.The Pakistani authorities have denied having such a large number of Balochs, including women, in their custody. Baloch nationalistelements, who have been fighting for the independence of their homeland, have also strongly denied any responsibility for the kidnapping.They suspect that the kidnapping had been orchestrated by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) through the Afghan or Pakistani Taliban fordiscrediting their freedom struggle by projecting the Baloch freedom-fighters as terrorists. The leadership of the Afghan Taliban headed byits Amir Mulla Mohammad Omar, operates from sanctuaries in the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan.

3.The Baloch freedom-fighters totally disapprove of the ideology of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and their anti-US policies. In fact, they feel thatthe US could help them in their freedom struggle and try to maintain good interactions with governmental and non-governmental elements inthe US. It is, therefore, very unlikely that the Baloch freedom-fighters----either in Pakistan or in the Baloch majority areas of Iran--- wouldkidnap or harm an American national. John Solecki was quite popular among the Balochs of Balochistan.

4. In its past messages, Al Qaeda had always projected the Punjabis and the Pashtuns as participants in its global jihad against theCrusaders and the Jewish people. It had never projected the Sindhis, the Mohajirs and the Balochs as forming part of its global jihad. In asignificant departure from this practice, an audio message of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 of Al Qaeda, disseminated on February 22,2009,refers to the Balochs also as participants in the global jihad. It appeals to the Arabs of Saudi Arabia and Yemen to emulate the Pashtuns andthe Balochs of Pakistan in stepping up the jihad against the rulers of these two countries.

5. It says: " I call on the noble and defiant tribes of the Yemen and tell them--- don't be less than your brothers in the defiant Pashtun andBaluch tribes, who aided Allah and His Messenger and made America and the Crusaders dizzy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Your brothers from the defiant Pashtun and Baluch tribes are making the Crusaders taste woe after woe and are sending thousands of their lions to jihadin Afghanistan under the banner of Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid and are disciplining the treasonous Pakistani Army, making it tastedefeat after defeat and forcing it to make pacts with them in order to save itself from their violence and they are severing the supply routeof the Crusaders from Pakistan to Afghanistan."

6. Zawahiri's reference to some members of Baluch tribes fighting in Afghanistan against the Americans under the banner of the AfghanTaliban and the kidnapping of the American UN official indicate the possibility that that BLUF might be an organisation of Afghan, Pakistaniand Iranian Balochs , who are sought to be used by the Taliban and Al Qaeda in their fight against the US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan.This needs further enquiry. (15-3-09)

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

Sunday, March 8, 2009



Should the Indian Premier League (IPL) Cricket tournament for 2009 go ahead as scheduled or should it be postponed due to securityconsiderations?

2. The national debate on this question is sought to be influenced more by commercial considerations arising from the profit-making urge ofthe corporate entities owning the participating teams and the money-making urge of different sections of the media and the advertisingcommunity than by security considerations, which have assumed added importance in view of the recent terrorist strikes in Mumbai andLahore. The importance of ensuring the security of the life and property of the common citizens is sought to be subordinated to catering tothe money-making urge of these sections with a vested interest in seeing that the IPL tournament goes ahead as scheduled.One has also valid reasons to suspect that electoral considerations----- the anxiety of the Congress (I) not to step on the toes of Shri Sharad Pawar, whoapart from being an influential member of the Union Cabinet, wears a second hat as the czar of the commercialised cricket world-- are alsoplaying a role in preventing a totally professional judgement on the issue.

3. The organisers of the IPL should have known that the general elections to the Indian Parliament were due before May,2009. This is aconstitutional requirement, which has to be fulfilled. Making security arrangements for the elections in the rural and urban areas is always avery difficult task. This is going to be even more difficult this year in the wake of the wave of terrorist strikes since May,2008----in Jaipur,Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Assam and Mumbai. Shri P.Chidambarm, Minister for Home Affairs, was quoted in a TV interview as saying thatone has to be prepared for a possible terrorist strike as the elections approach.

4.In view of this, one would have expected that in getting a window of dates for the IPL tournament approved by the concernedinternational cricketing authorities, the IPL organisers would have seen that the dates for the tournament did not clash with the likelydates for the elections. Even if there was no terrorist threat, making simultaneous security arrangements for two major events such as thegeneral elections and a cricket tournament of tremendous public interest would have been an uphill task for our security agencies, thepolice and the para-military forces.

5. Even in the absence of possible threats from terrorists, there would have been a tremendous pressure on their manpower resources. It isnot just a question of finding the required manpower. It is also a question of giving adequate rest in between polls and cricket matches tothe forces that would be deployed to provide security. A tired member of the security forces cannot reasonably be expected to be alertenough to prevent a threat to security.

6. The security arrangements are likely to be more difficult and complex this year due to the recently-emerged threat from terrorists. Beforethe attempt by a group of terrorists to blow up the New York World Trade Centre in February, 1993, the conventional wisdom amongterrorism analysts was that terrorists would not indulge in mass casualty terrorism as that could antagonise public opinion. The February1993 attempt disproved this and showed that a new group of terrorists has arrived who are not bothered about the impact of their actionson public opinion.

7. Before the Lahore terrorist attack of March 3,2009, the conventional wisdom was that the terrorists would not target a cricket match inthe sub-continent because that could antagonise millions of the cricket-loving public of the sub-continent. This too now stands disproved.The terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team without bothering about the impact on public opinion and on the cricket-loving public.Shockingly, the cricket-loving public of Pakistan too has not condemned the attack. It has chosen to keep quiet. The terrorists have seen,firstly, how their actions have not had an adverse impact on the minds of the cricket-loving public and, secondly, what kind of publicity theygot all over the world.

8. Any sensible member of the security community anywhere in the world would take the lessons from Lahore into consideration whiledrawing up plans for security arrangements for sports events. The first lesson from Lahore is that it is more difficult to make route securityarrangements than security arrangements at the hotel of stay and in the stadium. The second lesson is that even the best of security canbreak down in the face of determined commando style attacks. This is a modus operandi to which an appropriate response by the securityforces is yet to be found.

9. By their totally unwise action in fixing the dates of the tournament at the same time as the elections, the IPL organisers have placed theGovernment and its security bureaucracy in a cruel dilemma. If the authorities suggest a postponement of the tournament, they might givethe impression that they have allowed themselves to be intimidated by the terrorists. Such an impression could give added oxygen to theterrorists. If they go ahead with the tournament, despite its clashing with the general elections and despite the deterioration in the securitysituation, , they could be playing with the security of the lives and property of the citizens of this country.

10. Faced with this dilemma, it is important that the Government goes purely by the professional assessment and advice of the securitybureaucracy in deciding whether the IPC should go ahead as scheduled. Unwarranted arguments such as "national pride" etc should not beallowed to influence the decision. Commercial and electoral considerations should not be allowed to prevail over security considerations.Professional views are more important than the views of vested commercial interests. (8-3-09)

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

Friday, March 6, 2009



In our preoccupation with what is happening and what could happen in Pakistan, we should not overlook the urgent need for having arelook at our physical security architecture in sensitive establishments such as the nuclear establishments, oil refineries, gas productioninfrastructure, road, rail and air transport, critical information infrastructure etc. As I have emphasised repeatedly in the past, physicalsecurity is the most important component of counter-terrorism. If it is strong, a terrorist attack can be thwarted even if the intelligenceagencies fail. If it is weak, even the best of intelligence may not be able to thwart a terrorist attack. In both India and Pakistan, we have aweak culture of physical security. The main reason why the US has been able thus far to prevent a repeat of 9/11 is the strengthening of thephysical security apparatus by the newly-created Department of Homeland Security.

2. What happened at Mumbai, Kabul and Lahore---namely, commando-style surprise attacks by small groups of well-trained terroristswielding lethal hand-held weapons--- could happen again in India.We should not think that only Pakistan is vulnerable to such attacks.Wetoo are vulnerable as demonstrated so tragically at Mumbai. Our security architecture may not be as bad as that of Pakistan, but Mumbaiclearly showed that it is not as good as it should be.

3. There is an urgent need for two actions. Firstly, an audit of the physical security measures at all sensitive establishments----whether runby the Government or the private sector ---- in order to determine whether any physical security enhancements are called for.There is a needfor dividing all sensitive establishments into two categories-----those where a single-layer of physical security would be enough and thosewhere a double or multiple-layer of physical security would be necessary . The idea of a double or multiple-layer of physical security is thateven if the terrorists manage to beat the outside gate or perimeter security, they will not have a free run of the establishment due to asecond or more layers of armed physical security. To counter determined terrorists such as those one saw at Mumbai, Kabul and Lahore asingle-layer of physical security may not be sufficient in sensitive establishments.

4. The second action required is to have a relook at our consequence management capabilities to deal with a situation should, despiterevamped physical security, the terrorists manage to have access to sensitive establishments. The consequence management drill shouldtake into account various issues such as control over media coverage, prevention of panic, minimisation of damage and lethality etc. It isimportant to associate the consequence management set-ups of the States with this exercise because it is ultimately they who would actas the protector of first resort through their consequence management capabilities till there is intervention by the consequencemanagement community of the Govt. of India.

5. In Mumbai, the terrorists succeeded so dramatically because they targeted private establishments with no physical security measuresexcept some anti-explosive capability. Since the security guards of these establishments were unarmed, they were helpless before theterrorists wielding sophisticated hand-held weapons. Once the terrorists managed to gain access to these establishments and take themunder their control, the special intervention forces of the Govt. of India such as the National Security Guards (NSGs) found themselvesunable to act fast enough without causing too many loss of lives.

6. Situated as we are in the sub-continental region where terrorism will continue to be a fact of life at least for another 10 years or more andkeeping in view our ambition of emerging as a major economic power, we just cannot afford to take up the stand that the physical securityof the private sector is its responsibility and that the Government's role will be limited to issuing periodic advisories regarding likely threats.The Government has to play a more proactive role in encouraging and helping at least establishments of a strategic nature such as thoseassociated with the tourism industry, the information technology companies etc in improving their physical security.They already havesome capability for checks for explosives, but the methods used by them are primitive and do not take into account dangers from suicidebombers and vehicle-borne suicide terrorists.

7. Their weakest capability----which is almost non-existent--- is in facing a commando-style surprise attack by small groups of terrorists withmodern hand-held weapons. The only way of thwarting them is by having well-armed and well-trained guards. Do the present laws allow theemployment of such guards? If not, should the laws be modified to permit them to employ such well-armed guards? Who is going tosupervise their training and keep them under control to prevent the arms issued to them finding their way into the hands of terrorists?These are questions, which need urgent attention.

8. From the point of view of the physical security architecture. the distinction between the public and the private sector is disappearing.Many private companies are already in the fields of oil refining and gas exploration, production and transport. An increasing number ofairports is now privately managed. We intend allowing private companies into the field of nuclear power production. The Governmentcannot evade the responsibility for ensuring that such private establishments have a high level of physical security. There is a need for ajoint task force consisting of the representatives of the intelligence and security agencies and professional organisations of privateindustries such as the FICCI (Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries), the CII ( the Confederation of Indian Industries) etc aswell as representatives of foreign business organisations to go into the question of physical security enhancements for privateestablishments of strategic significance.

9. Practically all major private establishments----Indian as well as foreign--- have their own physical security set-up. It is important for seniorintelligence and security officials at the State and Central levels to regularly interact with them to exchange threat and vulnerabilityperceptions and ideas as to how to strengthen physical security.

10. In an important article titled "The Coming Swarm" in the "New York Times" of February 15,2009, which should be required reading for allour physical security experts, John Acquilla, who teaches in the special operations program at the Naval Postgraduate School at Montereyin California, wrote as follows: "It seems that a new “Mumbai model” of swarming, smaller-scale terrorist violence is emerging. The basicconcept is that hitting several targets at once, even with just a few fighters at each site, can cause fits for elite counterterrorist forces thatare often manpower-heavy, far away and organized to deal with only one crisis at a time. This approach certainly worked in Mumbai. TheIndian security forces, many of which had to be flown in from New Delhi, simply had little ability to strike back at more than one site at atime. While it’s true that the assaults in Kabul seem to be echoes of Mumbai, the fact is that Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been usingthese sorts of swarm tactics for several years...... How are swarms to be countered? The simplest way is to create many more units able torespond to simultaneous, small-scale attacks and spread them around the country. This means jettisoning the idea of overwhelming force infavor of small units that are not “elite” but rather “good enough” to tangle with terrorist teams. In dealing with swarms, economizing onforce is essential. ....For the defense of American cities against terrorist swarms, the key would be to use local police officers as the firstline of defense instead of relying on the military. The first step would be to create lots of small counterterrorism posts throughout urbanareas instead of keeping police officers in large, centralized precinct houses. This is consistent with existing notions of community-basedpolicing...... At the federal level, we should stop thinking in terms of moving thousands of troops across the country and instead distributesmall response units far more widely. Cities, states and Washington should work out clear rules in advance for using military forces in acounterterrorist role, to avoid any bickering or delay during a crisis. Reserve and National Guard units should train and field many more unitsable to take on small teams of terrorist gunmen and bombers. Think of them as latter-day Minutemen.Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey andYemen all responded to Qaeda attacks with similar “packetizing” initiatives involving the police and armed forces; and while that hasn’teliminated swarm attacks, the terrorists have been far less effective and many lives have been saved."

11.Jihadi terrorism in India outside Jammu & Kashmir is essentially an urban phenomenon. We cannot use against it the techniques learntby us in dealing with the insurgency in the North-East and with Maoist terrorism in Central India, which is essentially a rural phenomenon.We need a different system of response, which is comprehensive enough to cover all likely targets of strategic significane----whether in the Government or private sector.

12. Even if we do not create an independent Ministry of Internal Security,we should create a separate Department of Physical Security in theMinistry of Home Affairs, which is, inter alia, responsible for counter-terrorism, to act as the nodal agency for all physical security measureson the pattern of the Department of Homeland Security of the US. This newly-created department should interact continuously with its UScounterpart to pick its brains and profit from its expertise and experience. (7-3-09)

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

Thursday, March 5, 2009



How secure is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal from a commando-style attack by jihadi terrorists operating from sanctuaries inside Pakistan?

2. That is the question which should be worrying security experts all over the world as they learn with horror----based on visual evidencefrom closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and oral evidence from members of the Sri Lankan cricket team and the British match umpires andreferees--- how the 12 or so terrorists who attacked the SL cricket team had the Liberty Square of Lahore at their disposal for about 30minutes and walked away after the attack without the least fear of being chased and caught either by the security forces or the public.

3. It was as if they were walking away from a golf green after a game of golf---unhurried, unconcerned and totally relaxed..

4. Seven police officers, who were in the escort party of the convoy, died in the exchange of fire. Their bravery must be acknowledged andsaluted. But how about the dozens of other police officers, who were supposed to be on route security to prevent an ambush of the convoy?The British match officials have said that not a policeman was to be seen on the road. This, despite the Presidential-scale securityreportedly promised by President Asif Ali Zardari to the SL team.

5. How about the staff of the police station located near the Square? Why didn't they rush out and confront the terrorists? How about thepolice vehicles, which were supposed to be on patrol along the route to look out for suspicious movements and characters? How about therapid response commando teams, which were supposed to be there in the stadium and at the LIberty Square, which was known as avulnerable point since all vehicular movements had to slow down there?

6. They just disappeared or were not posted at all. In all the CCTV footage, the only sign of police one sees is a police vehicle crossing aterrorist and not taking any action as if it was crossing a normal pedestrian.

7. How about the road blocks all over Lahore which were supposed to have been put up after a terrorist strike to prevent the terrorists fromgetting away?

8. Many compelling questions arise as one gets details of what happened and what did not happen in Lahore on March 3,2009? Were thereinsiders in the security establishment, who had played a role in the conspiracy? Were there accomplices or jihadi sympathisers in thesecurity establishment, who facilitated the terrorist strike? Do the political and military leaders of Pakistan realise the total security vacuumin their country, which has made it a safehaven to jihadi terrorists from all over the world, who are able to operate at will without any fear ofthe consequences?

9. It has become a cliche to say that the Pakistani leaders are in a denial mode. So was former President Megawati Sukarnoputri ofIndonesia till the Bali terrorist strike of October,2002. Thereafter, she realised the gravity of the situation and made amends for her pastnegligence. So was former President Begum Khalida Zia of Bangladesh till the the nearly 400 synchronised explosions organised by theJamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM) in August, 2005. Thereafter, she realised the gravity of the situation and acted against the JUM.

10.Pakistan has been the scene of repeated terrorist strikes and the spawning ground of jihadi terrorism of various hues directed againstother countries since 1981. Till today, neither the political nor the military leaders of Pakistan are prepared to admit this. After the Lahoreattack on the SL team, Ilyas Khan, of the Islamabad Bureau of the British Broadcasting Corporation, reported as follows the same day:"Militant attacks in all parts of the world have been investigated and solved, but Pakistan is yet to solve even one out of the hundreds ofattacks it has suffered since the 1980s."

11. In every major terrorist strike of Pakistan, there was evidence of insider involvement. Some junior officers of the Pakistani Air Forcewere found to have been involved in the conspiracy to kill former President Pervez Musharraf at Rawalpindi in December,2003. Theinvestigation brought out the startling fact that the conspirators had met in the staff quarters of one of the PAF officers in a PAF complex inthe Islamabad-Rawalpindi area to finalise their attack.

12. Before and after the unsuccessful terrorist strike on her at Karachi on October 18,2007, Benazir Bhutto had alleged that Qari SaifullahAkhtar, the Amir of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), and some serving and retired officers of the Pakistan Intelligence Bureau andInter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were involved in the conspiracy to kill her. Saifullah was detained for some weeks for interrogation, butthereafter released without any action being taken against him. No action was taken against the officers named by her. Not even a formalenquiry.

13. After addressing a public meeting at Rawalpindi on December 27,2007, she left for her home in her car. Neither the police escort partynor Rehman Malik, the present Internal Security Adviser, who was at that time the co-ordinator of her physical security, followed her. Theyleft for home by a different route after the meeting was over. Benazir was shot dead as her car came out of the ground. Malik and otherofficers came to know only after they reached home that she had been shot dead.

14. One can go on giving such instances, which show a total lack of control over the security establishment, which has become a law untoitself and disturbing indicators of the extent and depth of penetration of the security set-up by the jihadi terrorists. Many countries in theworld, including India, are badly affected by terrorism. In many countries of the world, including India, there are inefficiencies andinadequacies in the counter-terrorism apparatus. But in no country of the world is the security establishment so badly penetrated by thejihadi terrorists as it is in Pakistan.

15. The Pakistani leaders not only refuse to admit this. Even more alarming, they live in a world of self-delusion which makes them think thatall these realities are the figments of imagination of others ill-disposed towards them.

16. If this is the real state of affairs, one has very valid reasons to worry about the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Pakistani politicaland military leaders repeatedly assure the international community that their nuclear arsenal has tight physical security and that noterrorist can penetrate it and get hold of nuclear weapons or material. After seeing what has happened in Lahore, the internationalcommunity cannot afford to accept the Pakistani assurances at their face value. It must subject the physical security of the arsenal togreater scrutiny by independent outside experts. Even if this is done, a 100 per cent security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal cannot beassured so long as the terrorist safehavens and infrastructure in Pakistan are not removed. Pakistan must be forced to do so throughinternational pressure. (6-3-09)

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2009




I have received a number of questions from readers with reference to my article of March 3,2009, on the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. I answer some of them in this article.

Q.What are the similarities and differences when one compares the Lahore attack with the earlier terrorist attacks in Kabul on February 11,2009, and in Mumbai on November 26,2008?

A. There are two similarities: Firstly, the reversion to the old modus operandi of surprise attacks with hand-held weapons, including grenades. The reversion of jihadi terrorists to the old MO, which had been seen earlier in Iraq, Algeria and the Lebanon, is now being imitated in the India-Pakistan-Afghanistan region. Secondly, a skilful exploitation of publicity opportunities for giving the terrorists a larger than life size image and the Government a helpless image. The Governments of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan looked clueless and helpless in the face of these attacks. The responses of all the three Governments were similar---- to focus on the external dimension and try to cover up the internal dimension of a major security failure, which facilitated the terrorist attacks.The differences are: Firstly,in Mumbai and Kabul there were well-synchronised multiple attacks, but in Lahore there was a single target with no synchronisation. Secondly, in Mumbai one saw a mix of attacks on stationary (buildings) and moving targets ( common people in different parts of the city); in Kabul the attacks were on stationary targets (Government offices), but in Lahore the attack was on a moving target--- the convoy carrying the SL team to the stadium. Thirdly, neither in Mumbai nor in Kabul was an ambush involved, but Lahore was a typical urban ambush. Fourthly, in Mumbai and Kabul only hand-grenades were used, but in Lahore the terrorists also used rocket-propelled grenades. Fifthly, In Mumbai, all but one of the terrorists died.In Kabul, all the terrorists died. In Lahore, all of them managed to run away.

Q. What are the differences in the agendas of the terrorists in the three attacks?

A. In Mumbai, one saw a mix of an anti-Indian, an anti-Israel and an anti-Western agenda. The anti-Indian agenda was to discredit the Indian Government and its security apparatus in the eyes of the international community, including foreign businessmen.The anti-Israel and anti-Western agendas coincided with those of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In Kabul, one saw a mix of an anti-Karzai and anti-US agenda. It was meant to demonstrate the capability of the Taliban and pro-Taliban forces to strike at Government establishments in the capital despite all the physical security measures. In Lahore, reliable evidence is yet to come, but one can already see an anti-Government agenda marked by a desire to demonstrate the ability of the terrorists to strike wherever they wanted. Was there also an anti-US agenda of a retaliation for the increasing Predator strikes on terrorist hide-outs by the US in the tribal areas? Possibly, but not yet certain.

Q. Why the terrorists attacked the SL cricket team?

A.The attack gave them global publicity, which they would not have otherwise got. All the TV channels of the world kept showing repeatedly the visuals of the attack.

Q.Who could be the prime suspect?

A.Any of the terrorist organisations operating from sanctuaries in Pakistan----- foreign as well as Pakistani.

Q. What is the most typical of the MO in Lahore?

A. Frontal urban ambush on a moving, supposedly well-protected target.

Q.Which are the organisations in Pakistan which have this capability?

A. The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), an off-shoot of the HUM, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-shia organisation, and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami(HUJI). Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have carried out a number of suicide bombings through individual suicide bombers and vehicle-borne bombers in many towns including Lahore, but they have not so far carried out a frontal urban ambush.

Q. How about the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET)?

A. Since its formation in 1989, it has never carried out any act of terrorism in Pakistani territory---- against Pakistani or foreign nationals. All its acts of terrorism have been either in Indian or Afghan territory. It has not carried out till now an act of frontal urban ambush even in Indian territory.

Q. Does the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have a capability for mounting its own act of terrorism in Pakistani territory?

A. No. It does not have.

Q. Is it possible for the LTTE to act through Pakistani surrogates?
A. Yes. The closest ally of the LTTE in Pakistan is the HUM with which the LTTE has had a long history of relationship relating to arms supply and drug smuggling. I had given details in my earlier article.

Q. How about any contact of the LTTE with other organisations in Pakistan?

A. None has come to notice so far.

Q. How about any contacts of the LTTE with the LET?

A. No evidence. The LET has been trying to develop a presence in the Muslim community in the Eastern Province in Sri Lanka, which is strongly opposed to the LTTE. An LET-LTTE nexus seems unlikely.

Q. Why should the HUM attack the SL cricket team? The argument of a quid pro quo for past assistance by the LTTE given in your earlier article does not sound convincing?

A. At present, one is speculating without evidence.If it turns out that the HUM had a hand in it, either it might have carried it out at its own instance to express its continuing solidarity with the LTTE or at the instance of the LTTE, which has not been able to carry out any successful terrorist strike in Sri Lanka recently. As the LTTE is finally defeated and its terrorist infrastructure in Sri Lanka neutralised,it could try to keep the movement alive through acts of terrorism in foreign countries. Pro-LTTE members of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora and the terrorist organisations of the world with which it has had fraternal ties such as the Hizbollah and the HUM would come in handy.

Q. The BBC has ruled out the possibility of either the direct or indirect involvement of the LTTE on the ground that many of the star SL cricketeers are Tamils and it would not want them killed.

A. The LTTE had killed a number of prominent Tamils of Sri Lanka, who had distinguished themselves in various fields. It has been using thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields to protect itself from final defeat.Why should it have qualms over the killing of Sri Lankan Tamil cricketeers? The LTTE is now a desperate organisation. It can do desperate things.

Q. What else is known of the HUM apart from its past contacts with the LTTE?

A. The HUM came to the notice of the Indian intelligence for the first time in 1993 when it supplied a consignment of arms and ammunition to the LTTE, which was loaded into an LTTE ship at Karachi with the complicity of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It came to notice in Kashmir in 1995 when it kidnapped some Western tourists under the name Al Faran. It was after this that the US designated it as a foreign terrorist organisation in October,1997, under its then name of the Harkat-ul-Ansar. Fazlur Rahman Khalil, its Amir, was a founding member of Bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed in 1998. He was also a co-signatory of bin Laden's first fatwa calling for a global jihad against the US and Israel. When the US launched Cruise missile attacks on the suspected training camps of Al Qaeda in Afghan territory in August 1998, following the explosions outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, it was found subsequently that some of the camps destroyed were those of the HUM and not Al Qaeda.It organised the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in December,1999. It was one the participants under the name HUM (Al Alami meaning international) in the kidnapping and murder of Daneil Pearl, the US journalist, in Karachi in January-February,2002.

Q.Shri P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, has spoken very critically of the physical security provided to the SL team. Is he fair or justified?

A. No. In Mumbai, 16 police officers and 163 civilians died. In Lahore, seven police officers died, but there are no reports of any civilian fatalities. On their return to Colombo, the SL players have spoken appreciatively of the driver of the bus who stepped on the accelerator the moment the bus was sought to be ambushed and sped into the stadium leaving it to the police to confront the terrorists. This speaks well of their reflexes.

Q. What is the lesson coming out of Lahore?

A. Jihadi terrorism emanating from the sanctuaries in Pakistani terrirtory has assumed a pan-sub-continental dimension equally threatening all the countries of the sub-continent--- Afghanistan, Pakistan, , India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It is time these countries constitute a common counter-terrorism brains trust to deal with this threat jointly. Otherwise, they will continue bleeding separately. (4-3-09)

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

Monday, March 2, 2009



Six players of the Sri Lankan cricket team, which had arrived on a visit to Pakistan, are reported to have been injured and four policemenkilled when 10 or more persons wielding hand-held weapons, including hand-grenades, attacked a bus in which the team was going to theGaddafi Stadium in Lahore on the morning of March 3,2009. The attack has been recorded on closed circuit TV and should enable thePakistani authorities to identify the terrorists and the organisation to which they belong. The Sri Lankan Government is reported to haveadvised the team to cancel the visit and return to Sri Lanka.

2. While it is too early to assess as to who might have been responsible for the attack and why, one has to recall past instances of contactsof the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM---known before 1997 as the Harkat-ul-Ansar), a memberof the International Islamic Front (IIF) of Al Qaeda and the role played by the commercial ships of the LTTE in the 1990s in facilitating heroinsmugglimg from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

3. In 1993, the Indian Coast Guard had intercepted an LTTE ship in which Kittu, a leader of the LTTE, was travelling from Karachi to theWanni region of Northern Sri Lanka. When cornered by the Coast Guard, the LTTE cadres on board the ship set fire to it and it sank. Kittuchose to go down with the ship in order to avoid falling into the hands of the Coast Guard. Some members of the crew jumped from thesinking ship and were arrested and interrogated. The subsequent investigation brought out that the ship was carrying a consignment ofarms and ammunition, which was loaded by the HUM cadres at Karachi, in the presence of some officers of the Pakistani Inter-ServicesIntelligence (ISI) and Navy.

4. Reports received in 1994-95 had indicated that the LTTE had helped the HUM in smuggling arms and ammunition in its ships to jihadielements in Southern Philippines and that in return for this the HUM and the ISI had gifted some anti-aircraft weapons and ammunition andsurface-to-air missiles to the LTTE.

5.Since 9/11, this source for clandestine arms procurement and heroin smuggling for the LTTE has dried up due to the deployment of NATOships off Pakistan to prevent any shipping activity in support of Al Qaeda. The HUM continues to have an active presence in the SouthernPhilippines and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in the Arakan area of Myanmar and in Southern Thailand. One cannot rule out thepossibility of the HUM---and possibly even the HUJI--- maintaining fraternal ties with the LTTE despite its Hindu/Christian background andpast anti-Muslim policies in the areas controlled by it.

6. These are opportunistic alliances to assist each other and the fact that the LTTE had followed an anti-Muslim policy should not come intheir way. In my past articles, I had mentioned that the ISI's arms gifts to the LTTE despite its anti-Muslim policies started after its assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May,1991.

7. Against this background, a possible line of enquiry should be whether the HUM or any of its allies in the IIF is repaying a debt to the LTTE for its past assistance by attacking the Sri Lankan cricket team.

8. Relevant extracts from my past articles having a bearing on this are annexed. (3-3-09)

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


In the second half of 1994, the LTTE had helped the Harkat-ul-Ansar (since renamed as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen), the terrorist organisationof Pakistan run by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in smuggling at least two shiploads of arms and ammunition from Karachi for theMoro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the Southern Philippines. In return for the LTTE's assistance in safely carrying these items to the Southern Philippines, the HUM and the ISI gave to it an undetermined quantity of anti-aircraft guns with ammunition and surface-to-airshoulder-fired missiles. The LTTE brought these weapons into use for the first time in April 1995 when it downed two aircraft of the SriLankan Air Force (SLAF) at Palali. Subsequently, it continued to use its anti-aircraft capability acquired from the HUM and the ISI against theSLAF effectively . It was also reported to have received replenishments of this capability in return for assisting the HUM in shipping to a portin Turkey consignments of arms and ammunition meant for the Islamic terrorists in Chechnya.

---From my article of 24. 07. 2001 titled ATTACK ON SRI LANKAN AIR BASE AT KATUNAYAKE at

The details also indicate that the maximum damage to the planes of the SLAF and the SL Airlines was, most probably, caused withrocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers of Soviet vintage which the Afghan Mujahideen, now forming part of the Taliban, and theInter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan had captured in large numbers from the arms depots of Kabul after the collapse of the Najibullahregime in April, 1992. In the past, the ISI and its creation, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), had supplied at least three consignments ofweapons seized from Kabul, including the launchers and anti-aircraft guns and missiles, to the LTTE in return for its assistance in narcoticssmuggling and in shipping arms consignments to the Muslim separatists in Southern Philippines and to the Chechen terrorists in Russiathrough a Turkish port.

--- From my article of 26. 07. 2001 titled THE OMENS FROM KATUNAYAKE at

In its fierce determination to achieve its political objective of a Tamil Eeelam, a separate Tamil State encompassing the Northern andEastern provinces of Sri Lanka, the LTTE follows a no-holds-barred approach. It has had no qualms over letting its fleet be used fornarcotics-running by the heroin barons of Pakistan and Afghanistan or for gun running to the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic LiberationFront of the Southern Phillipines by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) of Pakistan in order to replenish its coffers and arsenal. It did nothesitate to accept a consignment of arms and ammunition from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan in 1993.
---- From my article of 29. 04. 2002 titled THE LTTE: The Metamorphosis at

India has also an international obligation under various international conventions relating to counter-terrorism and particularly under the UNSecurity Resolution No.1373, which was passed after the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US. The UNSC Resolution No.1373 applies to allinternational terrorist organisations and not just to international jihadi terrorist organisations. The LTTE comes under the definition of aninternational terrorist organisation due to various reasons. Firstly, it had carried out acts of terrorism in Indian soil in the past, including theassassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. Secondly, it has had contacts in the past with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) of Pakistan, which is afounding-member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) and which is behind many acts of jihadi terrorism in Indian territory.Thirdly, it has had contacts in the past with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The arms and ammunition carried by the late Kittu'sship in 1993 were given by the HUM and were loaded on to the LTTE ship at Karachi with the complicity of the ISI. Fourthly, it has had andcontinues to have contacts with various terrorist organisations of West Asia such as the Hezbollah of the Lebanon. Fifthly, it runs aninternational arms smuggling and procurement network with the help of some members of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora abroad. Sixthly,the recent investigations by the Tamil Nadu Police have brought out that though the LTTE has not used the Indian territory for an act ofterrorism after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, it continues to use the Indian territory for the procurement of material required forimprovised explosive devices. Seventhly, it has set up logistics support sanctuaries in many countries of the world with the help of membersof the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora as well as others sympathetic to it. These factors oblige India to extend to Sri Lanka two kinds ofassistance----namely, intelligence-sharing and action against the LTTE's logistics support sanctuaries in Indian territory. India has alreadybeen extending such assistance. While intelligence-sharing cannot be public knowledge, the details of the recent actions by the CoastGuard and the Tamil Nadu Police against the LTTE's procurement activities are evidence of the Indian co-operation. The 9/11 terroriststrikes also brought about a recognition by the international community that terrorism is an absolute evil, whatever be its cause andobjective and should not be tolerated. Every State, which is a victim of terrorism, has a right to take all legitimate self-defence measures toprotect the lives and property of its nationals. Thus, the Government of Sri Lanka has the right to take all legitimate measures to protect itscitizens from acts of terrorism. Such legitimate measures include procurement of the weapons and expertise required for counter-terrorismoperations from other countries.

---- Extract from my article of 2-6-07 titled SRI LANKA & INDIA: FACING REALITIES at