Sunday, 24 January 2021
logo
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.
        



dv-header-dday
     |      View our Twitter page at twitter.com/defenceredbox     |     
South Asia

By Nick Watts, Great North News Services Correspondent

Recent events in Libya have served to distract from the UK's main defence effort at the moment, Afghanistan. This morning at RUSI General David Petraaus commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) gave a presentation which served to remind the audience of the scale and complexity of the enduring Afghan campaign. In October 2009 Petraeus' predecessor Gen McChrystal gave a stellar exposition of the situation as he found it. At the time ISAF was struggling to understand the nature of the insurgency and the means necessary to deal with it. McChrystal had at least started asking the right questions.

Now the situation has moved on. The talk is of the end game and transfer of responsibility for the security of Afghanistan to its own army the ANA. To some extent Petraeus is a lucky general, just as his forebear was unlucky. He has inherited a situation which he summarised as "only recently have we got the inputs right". Only in 2010 was ISAF able to reverse the momentum of the insurgency, which Petraeus characterized as gaining momentum from 2005 onwards. He is referring not only to the uplift in troop numbers, but also to the way ISAF does business in terms of building up the governance of the country, and "getting the big ideas right". Up until then there were too many competing organizations working in silos without talking to each other. So part of the governance piece has been getting the NGOs and contractors as well as the UN and EU working together.

The NATO Lisbon summit committed ISAF to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014. In addition President Obama has committed to the beginning of a draw-down of US forces, beginning in July this year. In answer to some questions on this aspect Petraeus made the point that both NATO and some troop contributing nations, including the UK, were discussing with the Afghan government arrangements for post 2014. He would not be drawn on specifics but mentioned that one key element of the Afghan security forces was still being developed, namely "enablers". These are the vital support functions such as artillery, medical and logistic services, as well as air lift and command and control functions. This might be taken to imply that some elements of NATO's on-going support after 2014 could involve surveillance and special operations forces.

One of Petraeus' earlier appointments had seen him re-writing the US Army's counter insurgency manual, so here was the man who wrote the book explaining how it works on the ground. He was at pains to stress that the military element was only one piece in the jigsaw of COIN. He has also previously been quoted as saying that Afghanistan "is all hard, all of the time"; so he does not see that progress is yet irreversible. He also stressed how important it is to keep our own public opinion supportive of the costly nature of the campaign.

An intriguing piece of the COIN jigsaw is what is called "reintegration" by which is meant the various strands being used to encourage members of the insurgency to lay down their arms altogether or to change sides. On this matter Petraeus was matter of fact, but opaque. There are efforts in hand to encourage both the lower echelon fighters to stop fighting, as well as the higher echelons. More emphasis is being put into tackling local corruption, which is often one of the grievances which cause people to join the insurgency.

There is also recognition by the Karzai government that the culture of patronage has to be dealt with, including his own family. On their own none of these things is a winner; but added to the improvements in ISAF's tactical situation, they all add up to reasons for wavering insurgents to remain at home, or to change sides. A British officer, Maj Gen Phil Jones is in charge of the force reintegration effort, to get ex-Taliban insurgents into the ANA.

Petraeus' presentation was much more assured than the one given by McChrystal in 2009. Back then ISAF was striving for credibility in the capitals of the NATO nations, never mind how it was doing in the campaign against the insurgents. Petraeus has managed his tenure well and things seem to be going reasonably well, although he didn't want to sound complacent. He said that there was still hard fighting ahead. It is to be hoped that should there be setbacks, as there may well be, Petraeus will not also find himself carpeted by his President, but given the top cover he needs to finish the job.

 

By Sagar Deva

The role played by transnational crime in sustaining assymetrical conflict and terrorist activity is often hidden through complex networks both the licit and illicit economy, and therefore its prominence as a security threat is often underrated. However, it plays a fundamental role in the propagation of assymetrical conflict and dangerous non-state organisations. Whilst fighting the root causes of rebellion and terrorism might reduce the number of individuals who are tempted to join these violent groups, a focus on transnational crime identifies their operational capacity to perpetrate their attacks upon forces which have superior conventional armaments.

Despite the fact that militants usually possess military capabilities inferior to the nation-states they threaten, their operations can tap into considerable resources, both in terms of finance and weaponry, explosives, and network connections. Such organisations can have membership in the hundreds of thousands. Both the Kurdish Peoples Party (PKK) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have access to money estimated in the billions of dollars. The Tamil Tigers possesed anti-aircraft weaponry, nightvision goggles, and high-optic sniper rifles, weaponry that was more advanced than the Sri Lankan Government.

As very few have their own weapons factory or production facilities, they must acquire their resources from outside sources. It is in this capacity that transnational crime becomes an important component in the security threat they pose.

As insurgent groups and global terrorists necessarily operate outside the structures of both domestic and international law, transnational crime naturally appeals to them as a source of funding. This has been particularly true since the end of the Cold War and the drastic reduction in 'state sponsored terrorism'. Resorting to criminal activity or alliance with international criminals has become more than a profitable sideline for transnational terrorists- it has become a necessity.

Al-Qaeda, which reputedly still mantains $113 million dollars in illicit accounts, is known to finance its operations largely through the use of international credit card fraud and in some instances drug trafficking. The FARC in Colombia fund their insurgency almost entirely from the profits of their narco-trafficking . Almost all major terrorist groups have significant network links to transnational criminal organisations, and many major attacks have been attributed to direct funding from international criminals. For example, the bombings of the Indian Parliament in 1993 were directly linked to the powerful global crime syndicate D-unit and its fugitive boss, Dawood Ibrahim.

Transnational crime plays a critical role in two main ways. Firstly, transnational criminal groups can 'ally' with terrorist groups and insurgent , providing them with vital resources or funds, usually in a mutually beneficial exchange. For example, in return for training in insurgency tactics from prominent members of the Irish Republican Army, FARC provided the IRA with cocaine to fund their activities.

Viktor Bout, known as the 'Merchant of Death', owned a fleet of 60 cargo jets via which he supplied insurgents, rogues, and dictators across the Middle East and Africa. Illegal armament traders have an interest in selling arms to anybody with the money – and perpetuating conflict maintains demand for arms. At the same time, narcotics traffickers have an interest in supplying insurgents and terrorists and weakening the state as this creates a lawless environment in which their operations can thrive.

Secondly, and even more dangerously, terrorist groups and insurgents begin to 'mutate their own structure' and take on the attributes of terrorist groups. In this capacity, violent groups begin to take on criminal assets themselves, moving into the illicit trade in arms or, more often, the illicit trade in drugs.

The pernicious effect can be seen in many regions. The conflict in Afghanistan is dominated by local warlords, Taliban militants, and other groups feuding with each other and with coalition forces. Large swathes of Burma are occupied by the WSA (Wa State Army) who frequently clash with the Burmese government and are reputed to have 20,000 armed militiamen. The FARC militia consistently commit terrorist attacks against the Colombian state and control a third of Colombian territory.

These dangerous militants share one common factor; their activities are almost entirely financed by the whole scale trade in narcotics. The wholesale trade in opium from the 'Golden Crescent' and 'Golden Triangle' respectively fund insurgent activity in Afghanistan and Burma, and FARC wholesales cocaine to the United States. The rise of Peru to the number one spot in the world cocaine supplies must raise fears that the Shining Path could return with bigger resources. Empirical evidence supports the link between transnational crime and regional instability. In the 9 major drug producing countries, only Thailand has not experienced sustained conflict.

Put simply it is likely that without the assistance of criminal profiteering, most major violent groups would not be able to continue their operations on anything like the present scale. The international community must broaden their attempts to address not only the root causes for recruitment but the criminal networks that allow terrorists and insurgents to arm themselves. Ultimately, it will require increased co-operation between international institutions tackling global crime like Interpol and national security forces. It will also require greater recognition from global leaders of the threat to international security posed by transnational criminals. Whilst large, powerful criminal networks still exist, the threat to peace and security will continue and perhaps grow.

 

By Deba Mohanty

The post-mortem has begun on the recent visit of US President Barak Obama to India. Preliminary autopsies suggest a heavy leaning towards optimism and even braggart assertions about the bilateral relations. A fairly balanced assessment, however, will come much later once promises and pronouncements are actually tested on the ground. Obama and his team have emphasised 'shared values, shared benefits and shared vision' between the two great countries. While shared values and visions do exist at the core of two democracies, with varying degree and often complementary, it is worth examining the 'shared benefits', which would put things in larger realistic perspectives.

Shared benefits in this context include expansion and consolidation of trade in civil and military domains, among others. While civil trade is mostly done between companies from both sides with minimal state supervision and intervention, it is the defence trade that is more complex, state-centric and often a casualty of legal procedural complexities as well as strategic considerations. Government approval is necessary even in the most insignificant military item transaction, although bulk of military manufacturing has gone into private hands in most countries.

Prior to Obama's visit, prognostic analyses in India suggested three broad assumptions—rise in American military equipment sales to India, growing company to company collaborations and gradual easing of regulations—apart from India's 'soft power' rise, possible entry into the high table in international affairs and a counter-balancer in Asian geopolitics. It must be mentioned here that the Indian soft power—cultural, historical, ideological and economic—has already been deeply embedded in its larger strategic framework, while a seat in the UNSC will not be easy, whereby US stamp of approval would only be symbolic at best. Counter-balancing act or 'strategic stabiliser' role in geopolitics needs more 'hard power' attributes than 'soft power'. In sum, symbolism seems to have overtaken 'hard business and strategic decisions', especially in the fields of defence trade, between the two countries.

All the three broad assumptions on defence trade are most likely to happen. If one looks at India's arms shopping list, it includes sale of C-130Js, Harpoons, P-8Is, C-17s, GE-414 aero-engines, etc. A reasonable assumption would suggest follow-on orders in most of these equipment and a possible $30 billion plus sale could be in the pipeline for the next five years (excluding $10 billion worth sale already approved). Collaborations with American firms will also increase as companies like Tatas start churning out components of military systems in collaboration with Sikorsky or state-owned HAL in collaboration with GE locally produces the aero-engine required for the LCA programme. Removal of restrictions on many of India's defence scientific labs will pave the way for import of critical components and technologies.

While such assumptions paint a rosy picture, the reality is actually very different. Four scenarios are laid down for further debate. First, the American discomfort on sale of weapons without signing agreements like CISMOA, LSA and BECA is likely to culminate in system acquisition by India that will be without critical support. This poses a challenge to the Indian scientists how to make the systems workable with Indian solutions. Previous experience of avionics and sensor integration to Su-30 by the Indian scientists gives much encouragement in this regard. Second, the American discomfort about Indian 'direct defence offsets' and FDI policies. The Americans would prefer 'indirect' to 'direct' offsets and would be happy if the FDI limit is raised to 49% or beyond. It would be wise on India's part if it carefully refines offsets conditions and resists the demand to raise the FDI limit for the moment as the larger Indian military industrial complex, at the moment dominated by state-owned defence firms, has not yet reached a level of maturity and global competitiveness. Third, we do not know why President Obama used the word 'so-called' entities list when it is 'real'! It will be wise again to wait for a while till the Americans work out on the list and impact of removed restrictions. Bulk of the Indian scientific community is still suspicious, so are many of our military leaders and even some of our pragmatic political leaders on this issue. Last but not the least, while the American decision making works on a composite system through which executive decisions are executed in a relatively fast manner, the Indian system is vertically structured and virtually independent of each other. Thus, the latter not only is a major hindrance to speedy decision making, leading to delays but equally importantly it leaves little accountability if things go wrong. If India wants a workable military industrial partnership with the US, it has to not only bring in reforms in its higher defence management structures but also emphasise collective decision making in an open environment.

Dynamics of military trade have changed from 'arms and influence' during the Cold War era to 'arms and incentives' in current times. If India wants strategic dividends from arms acquisitions, it must craft its acquisition policy in a prudent manner with the aim of bringing in knowledge that necessitates a higher degree of trust with the US. It should go beyond economics to factor in larger strategic considerations as well.

This article was first published the Financial Express on the 22nd November 2010. The author is a senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

 

By Ben West

Indian Maoist militants, known as Naxalites, have been meeting with members of the outlawed Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to the director-general of police for India's Chhattisgarh state. Based on information from a police source, state police chief Vishwa Ranjan said Nov. 11 that two LeT operatives attended a Naxalite meeting in April or May. While their presence at the meeting still needs to be corroborated, the chief said, it appears very likely that the Naxalites held the meeting to adopt a new policy and plans for increasing "armed resistance" in order to seize political power in India.

Indian authorities are using the alleged meeting between LeT operatives and Naxalites as evidence that Pakistan is trying to forge relationships with the Naxalites, which India has long suspected. India blamed the LeT for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2001 parliament attack. For the Indian public, LeT also has become synonymous with Pakistani intelligence operations. The group that Indian officials refer to as "LeT," however, is no longer an ally of Pakistan and has changed so much in recent years that we have started to refer to it and similar groups as "neo-LeT".

Before this latest accusation, Indian officials implicated at least six other militant groups in Naxalite activities (with varying degrees of Pakistani support). Linking the estimated 10,000-strong Naxalites to militant groups backed by Pakistan, India's main geopolitical rival and primary source of external security threats, creates a "nightmare" scenario for India. Indeed, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labeled the Naxalites "the biggest internal security challenge" to India. Taken at face value, reports of such an alliance lead to visions of well-trained, well-disciplined Naxal militants expanding their near-daily attacks on low-level rural targets in eastern India (known as the "Red Corridor") to political and high-tech targets in Calcutta, Hyderabad or even New Delhi. But such visions are alarmist and do not reflect the true nature of the very limited Pakistani-Naxalite relationship.

STRATFOR has watched Indian officials link Pakistan to the Naxalites before, but we have yet to see significant changes on the ground that would give any credence to the scenario outlined above. Many Indian officials are equally insistent that no connections exist between Naxalites and Pakistan. Although the Naxalites have provided rhetorical support for Kashmiri (and other anti-Indian groups') opposition to New Delhi over the past year, there has been little action to back up the rhetoric. The Indians have long feared that outside powers would manipulate grassroots groups in India and further destabilize an already regionalized country. When the Naxalite movement began in the 1960s, New Delhi feared Beijing was trying to get a foothold in India, and for the past 50 years India has demonized Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) for allegedly supporting militant operations in India.

Read more...  

By Rikke Haugegaard

In this essay, the author calls for increased gender awareness in counter-insurgency operations. The main focus is to draw attention to the potential roles of local women in counterinsurgency, especially in Afghanistan. How can local women contribute to the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan? How can ISAF and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan gain terrain by building alliances with local women?

The Taliban movement is harassing, threatening and killing local women who are working as professionals for the Afghan government or as leaders of women's networks in the province of Helmand (teachers, headmasters, police, health workers and leaders of women's groups/centres). Sometimes threats and violence have been imposed on their husbands too.

In recent years, NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) has been performing counterinsurgency activities in Afghanistan. The southern and eastern provinces in the country are strongly influenced by different insurgent groups, such as the Taliban, drug lords and local war lords. The province of Helmand is currently one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan.

Women are harassed on their way to work or school. The Taliban movement wants to prevent the mobility and freedom of women. Their general aim is to enforce strict Sharia laws on the local population, and to enforce a gender balance with the men ruling the women - and a strict separation of women from men, as well as boys from girls, in public as well as in private life. The Taliban is inspired to apply these rules in society by their radical interpretation of Sunni-Islam.

Read more...  

By George Friedman

The Afghan War is the longest war in U.S. history. It began in 1980 and continues to rage. It began under Democrats but has been fought under both Republican and Democratic administrations, making it truly a bipartisan war. The conflict is an odd obsession of U.S. foreign policy, one that never goes away and never seems to end. As the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal reminds us, the Afghan War is now in its fourth phase.
The Afghan War's First Three Phases

The first phase of the Afghan War began with the Soviet invasion in December 1979, when the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, organized and sustained Afghan resistance to the Soviets. This resistance was built around mujahideen, fighters motivated by Islam. Washington's purpose had little to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with U.S.-Soviet competition. The United States wanted to block the Soviets from using Afghanistan as a base for further expansion and wanted to bog the Soviets down in a debilitating guerrilla war. The United States did not so much fight the war as facilitate it. The strategy worked. The Soviets were blocked and bogged down. This phase lasted until 1989, when Soviet troops were withdrawn.

Read more...  

By Scott Stewart

In the wake of the botched May 1 Times Square attack, some observers have begun to characterize Faisal Shahzad and the threat he posed as some sort of new or different approach to terrorism in the United States. Indeed, one media story on Sunday quoted terrorism experts who claimed that recent cases such as those involving Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi indicate that jihadists in the United States are "moving toward the "British model." This model was described in the story as that of a Muslim who immigrates to the United Kingdom for an education, builds a life there and, after being radicalized, travels to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and then returns to the United Kingdom to launch an attack.

Read more...  

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

On the morning of July 17, a guest at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta came down to the lobby and began walking toward the lounge with his roll-aboard suitcase in tow and a backpack slung across his chest. Sensing something odd about the fellow, alert security officers approached him and asked him if he required assistance. The guest responded that he needed to deliver the backpack to his boss and proceeded to the lounge, accompanied by one of the security guards. Shortly after entering the lounge, the guest activated the improvised explosive device (IED) contained in the backpack, killing himself and five others. Minutes later, an accomplice detonated a second IED in a restaurant at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton hotel, killing himself and two other victims, bringing the death toll from the operation to nine — including six foreigners.

Read more...  

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told parliament May 5 that he believes Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is among the large group of Tiger militants trapped in a 4-square kilometer coastline area near Mullaitivu. The area around Mullaitivu has been the final focal point of a recent larger government military offensive aimed at restoring government control of northeast Sri Lanka and  crushing the South Asian country's separatist rebels, who have controlled large parts of the region for the past several years.

Read more...  

An unlikely senior partner

Written by Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, U K Defence Forum

In a recent survey undertaken by the East-West Centre, Honolulu, most security analysts believed that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was more effective at creating a sense of regional community than a US-led alliance system. Such findings are likely to be utilised by ASEAN to support its arguments that it is internationally recognised as an exemplar of enlightened regionalism. Despite pockets of political and economic difficulties ASEAN's commitment to pragmatism has allowed it to become a sub-regional organisation of global significance. Key to success has been ASEAN's ability to

Read more...  
 

Cookies
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Defence Viewpoints website. However, if you would like to, you can modify your browser so that it notifies you when cookies are sent to it or you can refuse cookies altogether. You can also delete cookies that have already been set. You may wish to visit www.aboutcookies.org which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of desktop browsers. Please note that you will lose some features and functionality on this website if you choose to disable cookies. For example, you may not be able to link into our Twitter feed, which gives up to the minute perspectives on defence and security matters.