Why India should send troops to Afghanistan

It’s about strategy, not popularity

There is often a negative correlation between popularity and good policy: what is popular is often not good policy, and vice versa. This is especially true when it comes to foreign policy. For instance, the Times of India thinks nothing of publishing an op-ed article titled “Call Pakistan’s bluff”, in other words, “Let’s attack them and see if they respond with nuclear weapons”. It seems unimportant to consider the question of “what if they press the red button first”.

Since no political leader will accept such a policy recommendation, perhaps writing and publishing it just serves the purpose of playing to the galleries. (Forget newspaper columns, even the FICCI task force report on national security & terrorism identifies surgical strikes, all-out war and ‘leveraging the water issue’ as among the hard options for the Indian government’s consideration.)

Now there is every reason for India to invest in capabilities to carry out a number of military missions across its borders, including for conventional warfare under the shadow of nuclear weapons. But any recommendation that India ought to carry out a direct military retaliation in response to a future terrorist attack is not only so irresponsible as to make it a non-serious option. It is also strategically unsound, because nothing serves the interests of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex more than an old-fashioned war with India.

Despite all its shortcomings, the “let’s strike Pakistan” option is popular, at least among some pundits, in college canteens and in most middle-class drawing rooms. But you have only to mention the idea of sending Indian troops to Afghanistan that suddenly you end up on the other end of the popularity-policy correlation. You begin to hear “What if the Pakistanis retaliate with more terror attacks?”, “What will the ‘Muslim world’ say?”, “It won’t be popular with Indian Muslims”, “Remember IPKF!” and “Why should we become footsoldiers of the Americans?”. [Some of which were reflected in the very interesting open discussion thread on this blog last week]

The proposal to deploy Indian troops in Afghanistan is based on the simple logic of force fungibility. That since it is not feasible for Indian troops to directly attack Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex, India should ensure that US troops do so. Since it is in India’s interests that as many US soldiers are committed to operations ‘along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border’, it is sensible to relieve US troops of duties in areas where they are not actually fighting the taliban—especially in Western and Northern Afghanistan.

India has the capacity to equip, station and supply several divisions of its troops in Afghanistan. Many Afghan political leaders—from President Hamid Karzai to the Northern Alliance—are highly likely to welcome India’s decision. Neighbouring countries, including Iran and Tajikistan, will support an Indian military presence in Afghanistan provided their interests are taken into account. And not least, the United States will welcome it—for even if Indian troops do not eventually deploy, the very possibility of their deployment will change Washington’s bargaining terms with Kayani & Co.

What if the Pakistanis retaliate with more terror attacks? This is the most serious question. It is highly likely that the military-jihadi complex will escalate the proxy war against India. While the impact of this escalation is less significant compared to what the Pakistani army might do in response to a ‘surgical strike’ it is must be accepted as the cost of the option. The cost can be mitigated—but not eliminated totally—through better intelligence co-operation with the United States and intensification of the internal security mechanisms put in place after 26/11.

But let’s not forget that the Pakistani military-jihadi complex might escalate the proxy war against India even if India doesn’t send troops to Afghanistan. If you think otherwise, you haven’t been reading the news since the 1980s. (You should make up for it by reading Praveen Swami’s book).

In fact, ensuring that the United States stays committed to the objectives outlined by President Barack Obama is ultimately in India’s interests—for the US cannot succeed in that mission unless it transforms the Pakistani state. Now, it can be argued that the US will pack up and leave if the situation gets too hairy, but if India doesn’t do anything to keep the US focused, such arguments are gratuitous, sanctimonious and ultimately, self-fulfilling.

The real options are to do nothing, and allow the United States and Pakistan to work out a solution and hope that the outcome of that bargaining will secure India’s interests. Or to eschew both pusillanimity and grandstanding and indirectly crush the Pakistani military-jihadi complex. As for popularity, it’s a question of timing. If the Indian government had announced that “we will go to Afghanistan” on November 28th, 2008, few would have raised their hands in objection. For that reason, it is imperative that India’s military planners develop and have on the ready a comprehensive, well-thought out policy option involving the stationing of Indian troops in Afghanistan.

54 thoughts on “Why India should send troops to Afghanistan”

  1. If Indian soldiers go to Afghanistan, they will be looked upon by the locals as ‘outsiders’. If Afghan jihadis decide to wage a war against Indian soldiers, we will get into an entanglement. Already, we need a significant military presence in Kashmir. We need soldiers on the borders. We might need the armed forces to tackle Maoists and Naxalites if things get out of control. So, the question is ‘can we afford to spread ourselves thin?’

  2. Joker,

    The story of Afghans being hostile to all outsiders has been overplayed. Let’s not forget that the same Afghans welcomed US troops in 2002, opinion polls still show that the international troop presence is seen positively and not all Afghans are Pashtuns. So it is not a given that Indian troops will be unwelcome or immediate targets.

    The second question: do we have the resources? Heck, when we can spare 9000 troops for UN peacekeeping duties in irrelevant places, I think we can immediately say we have 9000 troops to send to Afghanistan. That said, the ‘do we have enough troops’ is a popular but misleading cut-and-paste of the US popular discourse to India. There is enough capacity in India, and raising more troops (if necessary) is not at all a problem.

  3. The analysis above looks only at questionable “benefits” and completely ignores costs. Legitimate questions are asked to be ignored. (“What if the Pakistanis retaliate with more terror attacks?”, “What will the ‘Muslim world’ say?”, “It won’t be popular with Indian Muslims”, “Remember IPKF!” and “Why should we become footsoldiers of the Americans?”.)

    Even the “benefits” cited are questionable:

    a) Can one realistically foresee a situation where the US would indulge in an Iraq-style invasion into Pakistan just to crush the “military-jihadi” complex?. For a sucessful operation, a significant contribution must come from the Pakistan Army itself. It is not as if the Pakistan Army has no leverage on the situation.

    b) Why would US troops attack that part of the “military-jehadi” complex which is oriented towards India? Why would they not stop with attacking just the Taliban? Unless the Pakistan Army itself wishes to act, no real action is likely to be taken against India-centric jehadis. Indian troops may relieve pressure in Afghanistan, but it is highly unlikely that it will lead to US troops attacking LeT, JuD, JeM bases.

    c) Most fundamentally, it is claimed that the entire operation of sending troops to Afghanistan is to “crush the military-jihadi complex”, the end-goal appearing to be fewer terrorist attacks against India. However, the analysis concedes that it is “highly likely that the military-jihadi complex will escalate the proxy war against India”. So, the end result would be the opposite of the goal envisioned. Why carry on?

    d) Has an exit strategy been considered? What if terror attacks rise to the level witnessed in Pakistan today? What if the fragile peace in J&K, and the fragile cease-fire on the LoC were to go away? How much increased terrorism would India be willing to countenance? If things go wrong, would we exit immediately with our tails between our legs, or would we adopt the American way in Vietnam, again with our tails between our legs? Would that not serve to embolden Pakistan at a time when it seriously needs emboldening?

    In summary, the benefits are questionable, and the costs are asked to be ignored.

  4. Nerus,

    On the contrary, I explicitly identify, accept and offer ways to mitigate the primary cost (ie escalation of proxy war by Pakistan). I don’t think the other questions I cite are of serious consequence.

    Your points (a) and (b) are already addressed: India has a better chance of ensuring that US aligns its strategy to India’s interests if it sends troops. If not, as I said, it’s quite likely that the US won’t.

    On points (c) and (d) : is there a contradiction between crushing the military-jihadi complex and expecting it to escalate the proxy war against India? No, there isn’t. In the short-term escalation will take place. How short the short-term is depends on how quickly the MJC is crushed.

    Obviously, planning must incorporate exit strategies. But planning should be based on risk assessments of adverse outcomes, not the irrational fear of them.

  5. @nerus & @nitin

    A common point you both make implicitly: does the Indian military have what it takes to deliver on this mission?

    It is time that our military planners are compelled to answer this question seriously. After 26/11 we had the COAS saying yes we can do surgical strikes but we can’t be sure what they’ll do in response! Now that’s an option designed to be turned down.

  6. Hi Nitin,

    Well argued, succint post. I have just two doubts regarding such a policy.

    1) Decades of US interventionism has often backfired against them. In a lot of cases of course, interventionism is often justified, but our margin of error is smaller than the US because of our demographics and lack of superpower-dom. The fear of ‘will there not be more terrorist strikes’ actually leaves an important bit unsaid – will it not lead to more subversive action/support for terrorist action from within India. What are the chances that some anti-Hamid Karzai faction will rise a few years post the the ‘destruction of Taliban’ and prove a bugbear for us when we are ready to take the leap into the developed world? Pretty good, I’d say.

    2) Don’t read too much into the opinion polls showing support for the US (opinion polls in a war ravaged nation?). A few misdirected drone attacks are capable of changing all that.

    3) Is the US troop/fire-power constrained anyway? When the correct results of military action are not being observed, it is the first line of thought to assume that more capacity is necessary. This may not however be the case.

    Anyway, my contention is simply that the costs of such an action/exit strategy are going to be tougher for India than for the US. The benefits may still outweigh the costs in the manner that you pointed out.

  7. Ritwik,

    Thank you. The first part of your first concern relates to another facet of the proxy war which I argue must be accepted as part of the cost. As for the possibility of a future government in Afghanistan and start pricking India, well, that’s a possibility that will exist regardless of whether Indian troops were deployed. (In 1970, you could have argued that a future regime in liberated East Pakistan would be anti-India and even harbour anti-India terrorists, and you would have been right. But the 1971 intervention, at the very least, created pro-India political forces that could & do come to power at other times.)

    What might constrain US troops? You are right, numbers are not the only thing. But without numbers, you don’t even have a ticket to the movie.

    Finally—I do not underestimate or trivialise the costs. But the costs of not intervening to crush the MJC when there is an opportunity are much greater.

  8. There is often a negative correlation between popularity and good policy: what is popular is often not good policy, and vice versa. This is especially true when it comes to foreign policy.

    Isn’t this a rather sweeping statement? What about US policy in the run up to the second Gulf War?

    Ignoring additional foreign policy wrinkles that arise from such a deployment, the terrain and intelligence-gathering capabilities require large-scale deployment. Can (and should) the Indian state sink in men and money to fight a long drawn out war at this point?

  9. What is the objective of us sending troops to Afghanistan ? Would we secure some strategic resources like natural gas ? Would we build some strategic allies in the neighbourhood that’ll stick with us through thick and thin ? Would we have a reduced threat of terrorism or military attack ?

    The answer to all these questions is NO. (1) True that Afghanistan is at a crucial crossroads for shipping natural gas, but bigger fish are eyeing that terrain. The USA (and China) would never let anything go India’s way beyond what they can afford. The sending of Indian troops would do no help because primary control rests with the USA. (2) All of India’s neighbours would get wary about such our diplomacy and start cultivating “strategic” partnerships with China. Pakistanis (and probably Bangladeshis) would obviously be incensed by any Indian intervention in Afghanistan. But it’s not just them.. no single country in the neighbourhood would support this intervention.. apart from probably Iran (if India’s ties with Iran remain as they stand today). India clearly doesn’t have a diplomatic (like NATO) clout to engage in military adventures like the USA does. (3) Instead of reducing terrorist attacks, this intervention would only *increase* them.. We need to only look at Pakistan and how much of a price they are paying for supporting US troops. At least, the Pakistanis can argue that their country is bankrupt and don’t have a choice except listening to the US. But we Indians are in no such position.. The US needs us a lot more than we need the US.

    In conclusion, though we have amongst the world’s largest standing armies, we are in no position to sacrifice the valuable lives of our soldiers for some stupid military adventure that is not in our interest.

  10. A very well argued brief — albeit one I continue to disagree with

    Would like to highlight a key passage in the argument:

    “But let’s not forget that the Pakistani military-jihadi complex might escalate the proxy war against India even if India doesn’t send troops to Afghanistan. If you think otherwise, you haven’t been reading the news since the 1980s. (You should make up for it by reading Praveen Swami’s book).”

    Regardless of what we choose to do, the proxy war is the core reality we need to focus on. This means materially upgrading our intelligence, hardening our defenses, creating a competent police force, and — politically — moving on from the naive hope that carrots and/or sticks will change Pakistan. Saving Afghanistan from itself is even more of an impossibility. Instead of getting ensnared by this quicksand any further, why not erect high walls and cut our selves off from this veritable hell on earth?

    This is a painful evolution in my thinking. I’ve always believed that India’s emergence as a superpower will follow from her ability to lead its neighbors into political modernity. After all, if we cannot inspire our “sphere of influence” to better behavior, what kind of superpower are we? But, I have come to realize that there are tipping points in national histories beyond which only chaos resides and no rescue is possible. Pakistan, and Afghanistan, are well past that point and we are better off walling them off rather than wasting more blood and treasure there. If someone feels like carrying the burden, let it be the powers of the West who have long fished in these murky waters and are responsible for creating this mess.

    Is this defeatist? Perhaps, a bit. Actually, it’s more a realist view than a neo-conservative one! Does this handle the issue of Pakistani nuclear weapons? Alas, no. But then, neither does your prescription. There, we just have to count on deterrence and a doctrine of major regional escalation of the war in the event we are attacked with these apocalyptic weapons (in other words, our retaliation will not be limited to Pakistan but also its enablers). Hopefully, the latter group are more rational and would understand the language of deterrence better that than Pakistani puppets.

    Warm regards

  11. Primary Red,

    Actually, I do not disagree with you on the objective being to insulate ourselves. The problem, though, is that there is no perfect fence.

    An insulation strategy has three prongs: first, the investment in the fence, which I allude to and you describe well. Second, strategic political, economic and diplomatic engagement with centres of power in Pakistan, which I’ve written about in my op-eds.

    And third, a coercive option that addresses the central actor – the MJC. India draws a blank on this front at this time. An Afghan deployment will address this bit.

  12. Vakibs,

    Not sure where you got the natural gas thing from, but the purpose of our intervention is clearly defined: to indirectly crush the Pakistani military-jihadi complex.

    As for India’s neighbours, it will be unfortunate if they do not support rooting out terrorism in their own neighbourhood and their commitment to fighting terrorism is limited to signing some irrelevant SAARC treaties on the subject. But while that is indeed unfortunate, it need not keep India from doing what it sees as necessary to defend its own interests.

  13. Wow! Such a round about solution to a problem, I have never seen. It seems the much maligned popular, including middle class tea drinking folks, like me, understand the situation lot better than the strategic community who apparently agree in majority that we should send troops to Afghan.

    So it’s an US outsourcing model. Forget the fact that the BPO firm (or US MilitaryPO complex) has never proposed that if India takes up the burden, somehow suddenly they will start crossing Pakiland western border – which they haven’t done months soon after 9/11 even when bin laden crossed over – to deal with terrorist haven? Isn’t that a big assumption on our part?

    Let us say we do send 30,000-50,000 troops (about half the number that US has now) to relieve and outsource the actual fighting to US troops. Then the Americans will listen to us when we tell them – destroy this camp; kill that sob in Pakiland? Why? It’s true, we can’t ask them do anything if we don’t provide significant support them materially. But corollary may not be true. And this is US we talking about here.

    This round-about-solution to a complex problem seems be because we are paralyzed by Pakis nuclear weapons. (We may also be deluding ourselves that somehow we would actually use our military if Pakis didn’t have nuclear weapons – history until mid-80s shows, when J&K & Punjab were festering, otherwise.)

    A more straight forward, non-outsourcing model, would be to raise the cost of Pakiland’s war of terror – which is what the stupid middle class, and that general at TOI, is thinking of. Imagine how much covert capability India can buy for the cost of deploying and maintaining 30,000 troops in a landlocked poor far-off country. Target specific terrorists groups, like LeT, leadership and training camps for destruction even as we strengthen NIA and para-police capability at home. That would be a cheaper, have more control over, and ultimately more effective solution than search under the lamp post because that’s where the light is type solution.

  14. As I suggested elsewhere too, India should send troops to Afghanistan but only as part of a SAARC force. Let India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Lanka contribute equal number of troops while others contribute less. This SAARC force can replace all the NATO and allied forces leaving about 20,000 US forces to operate close to the border. Remember Afghanistan is a SAARC member country.

    India unilaterally sending troops without the nod from Pakistan is a non-starter. The Pakistani Jihadi-Military complex will not accept India encircling Pakistan so as to help US takeout Mujahideens. There’ll be bloodbath on the streets of India.

    But a SAARC force with Pakistan as a critical component will give them a foothold in Afghanistan (strategic depth if they want to call it so) while assisting overall peace objectives in Afghanistan. Let Pakistan and US fight Taliban all across Pakthunkhwa, on both sides of the Durand line.

  15. Acorn, your arguments stems from your assumption that US would go in for AfPak border region. I feel that they would simply pack up things and go back to their home declaring that India would take care of Afghan interior, while keeping forces in AfPak border region as it is now.

  16. At the core of this I think is a innovative and fascinating idea, that India can relieve the US of peacekeeping so that it can do the job of counterinsurgency. I am also intrigued by the idea that it gives the US a card to play against Pakistan (though I am not convinced that the US was or is looking for any such card, else the diplomacy would have sounded quite different over the last year).

    First, a suggestion. One of the biggest headaches for the US has been non-UK NATO allies’ sensitivity to casualties and consequent national ‘caveats’ that inhibit effective operations. Indian public diplomacy should warm up now, stressing that India is encumbered far less by such concerns, IPKF notwithstanding. Six decades of home-game COIN has inured the country to much of what is unpalatable in Germany. This is a selling-point.

    Second, there are important middle grounds: Indian units could be embedded with weaker ANA units, air support could be provided for British units sorely lacking in lift capacity, India could offer use of its supply lines, Indian officers with extensive experience of insurgencies could establish (expand?) in-field advisory positions, and India could create local ‘safe havens’ centered on extant Indian development activity.

    Third, simply ‘relieving’ US forces seems inadequate, because the problem is not just insufficient troops but the basic stopping power (political more than physical) of the Durand Line, and the entrenched networks of support from portions of the Pakistani state for portions of the Taliban and other terrorist networks. This was simply not present in Iraq, and presents a huge and perhaps insurmountable problem for Iraq. Now, given the inherent limits of Indian options in the face of a Pakistani nuclear shield, perhaps relief is the best India can manage at this point.

  17. @Balaji

    SAARC is a joke. The idea of a joint force comprising of India and Pakistan is for dreamists, not realists. The only way that might happen is like how the Allies and the Soviet Union jointly stabilised Germany.

  18. Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), Jaish e Mohammed (JeM), Harakat al Mujahadeen, and other Punjabi Taliban are already playing a large role fighting the ANA (Afghan National Army), Afghan National Police (ANP), National Directorate of Security (NDS), and 44 country ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) inside Afghanistan. This is especially so with respect to Haqqani’s forces in North Waziristan and Khost Afghanistan; as well as Nuristan Afghanistan . . . where LeT, JeM and Al Qaeda are operating independently of Haqqani. {Haqqani, or the greatest of the supposed pro ISI Taliban is closely linked to Kashmiri militants. He is also the greatest threat to the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces = ANA + ANP + NDS), GIRoA (Gov Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), the Afghan people and ISAF today.}

    The idea that the ANSF and ISAF are already not doing all they can to fight LeT, JeM, and other India centric Takfiri extremists is hard to understand. I don’t know about a single Takfiri extremist group that attacks India that doesn’t also attack America, Europe and Afghanistan.

    The supposedly pro ISI Taliban (Haqqani, LeT, JeM, Harakat al Mujahadeen and the three anti Shiite bigots LeJ/Sipah e Sahaba/Jundullah) are now working closely with the supposedly anti ISI Pakistani Taliban (for example Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) inside both Afghanistan and Pakistan. One example of their collaboration is through Iyas Kashmiri’s brigade 313 (that use to be one of the largest Kashmiri militant groups in the 1990s); another is through the Lashkar al Zil (Army of the Shadow) moniker.

    The former children of the ISI are now trying to destroy the country of Pakistan. If this were to happen, it would be a complete calamity for the entire world including India.

    What can India do to stop this? India should offer direct assistance to Pakistan. If Pakistan turns this down, the next best thing India could do is to directly train and equip the ANSF. The Afghans are fighting and dying in large numbers to kill India’s enemies (not for India, but because India’s enemies are also killing Afghans.) After 9/11, violence in Kashmir fell by 90% because most of the Kashmiri militants moved to Afghanistan and Pakistan to kill Afghans and Pakistanis.Doesn’t India owe the Afghans at least some assistance?

    India is the most popular country among Afghans in recent public opinion polls. 73% favorable rating in the Feb. 10, 2009, public opinion poll. By contrast:
    -the percentage of Afghans viewing Osama Bin Laden unfavorably was 92%
    -the percentage of Afghans viewing the Taliban unfavorably was 91%
    -the percentage of Afghans viewing Pakistan unfavorably was 91% (Afghan Pakistan rivalry makes India Pakistan rivalry pale by comparison; which is why the idea expressed above that Pakistan should send peace keepers to Afghanistan is beyond stupid.)

    By far the most popular institution in Afghanistan according to every public opinion poll since 2001 is the ANA. Training and equipping their beloved ANA is likely to earn India gratitude from the large majority of Afghans. The ANA wants to fight India’s enemies and will fight them whether India aids the ANA or not. Why would India not train and equip the ANA?

    The extremists are already trying very hard to attack India. It is doubtful they can do more to attack India. To the degree the ANA is able to take the fight to the extremists it would reduce attacks against India, since the extremists would be tied up trying to save themselves from the ANA. One of the main reasons America has not been hit since September 11, 2001, is that global extremists were too busy trying to mass murder as many Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, and people from other countries as possible. This distracted them from attacking America, Europe, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Russia, and most other countries. Why shouldn’t India enable the Afghans and their beloved ANA fight the terrorists over there so that Indians don’t have to fight the same terrorists on Indian soil?

    Why would Indian muslims oppose India training the ANA? Indian muslims like Afghans; and if Afghans welcome Indian help; wouldn’t India training and equipping the ANA be popular among Indian muslims? Let Afghans, their elected leaders, revered tribal elders and revered clerics visit Indian muslims and formally ask them for Indian help. Probably the only Indian muslims who might object would be pro Pakistani Indians who hate Afghans because they believe Afghans are anti Pakistani (for understandable reasons.) I doubt these pro Pakistani Indians would want to hurt India any more than they already do because India was training the ANA.

    The largest reason India should train and equip the ANA is as insurance against the worst:

    If Pakistan falls apart, the only institution that could operate effectively inside Pakistan might be the ANA. The ANA is about 42% Pashtun (which is the share of Afghanistan’s population that is Pashtun), and would likely have some popular support among Pakistan’s perhaps 35 million Pashtuns.

    Unfortunately, the Afghans cannot directly accept Indian combat troops without creating pandemonium inside Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Therefore India cannot send “combat troops,” or probably even embedded mentors who serve inside the ANSF.

    One way India could contribute is by sending a noncombat FID centric advisory division HQs (with augmented officers and NCOs.) This division HQs would report to the NATO Training Mission (NTM-A.) It would work with Major General Aminullah Karim’s Afghan National Army Training Command, and the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) equivalent. Their role would be to:
    1) increase the number of ANA experienced officers in staff college at any given point of time (far too few ANA experienced officers are getting staff college training as well as the opportunity to train or conduct joint operations abroad)
    2) increase the number of ANA in 2nd Lieutenant school at any given point of time (currently because of the lack of funding and trainers, 2nd Lieutenants only get 20 weeks of training each; and the ANA trains too few 2nd Lieutenants)
    3) increase the number of ANA in 4 year academy at any given point of time (only 84 graduated in the first batch in January, 2009, because of a lack of funding and trainers. Similarly funding and trainer shortages lead the ANA to only accept 450 cadets for the 4 year class that starts in January, 2010.)
    4) increase the number of ANA NCOs getting follow on NCO training at any given point of time
    5) increase the length of ANA entry level bootcamp–which is currently 8 weeks (use to be 16 weeks long but was cut back because of a lack of funding and trainers)
    6) increase the length of ANP entry level bootcamp–which is currently 6 weeks (use to be 12 weeks long but was cut back because of a lack of funding and trainers)
    7) Train ANAAC (Afghan National Army Air Corps.) India is already training the ANAAC in AN-26s, AN-32s. The GIRoA has requested Indian training on Mi17s and Mi35s.

    Longer training cycles would improve the quality and performance of the ANSF. ANSF want the literacy training that longer training cycles would allow.

    One Indian noncombat FID centric advisory Division would significantly contribute to increased ANSF training through put and capacity. Increased ANSF capacity would greatly advance India’s interests and be consistent with Indian values. How could increased ANSF capacity result in downside for India? India already is helping train the ANSF on a small scale (especially the Afghan Air Force where India is one of the lead trainers); which is already earning India a lot of Afghan good will. India cannot have a more reliable, trustworthy and loyal ally than the Afghans.

    This Indian division HQs would have to work through the NTM-A because:
    1) The ANSF will insist on it. The ANSF publicly complains that many ANSF units cannot work together effectively because different countries train different ANSF according to different doctrines. The ANSF want all ANSF to be trained under a single doctrine
    2) This would partly ameliorate Pakistani and Saudi paranoia. Who can complain about an Indian contribution that is requested by the Afghan parliament and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council (as ISAF is.)

  19. sj,

    My preference would be for India to contribute noncombat troops under NTM-A command, plus substantially more economic aid (India has only pledged $2 billion compared to the $39 billion in grants America has given Afghanistan, and the many tens of billion of dollars in grants that other countries have pledged), plus thousands of civilians to assist the development of GIRoA civilian institutions (and to serve as lecturers at Afghan universities.)

    However, if India were to decide to do more than this; India should:
    1) contribute ISAF POMLTs (or embedded ANP mentors) for Afghanistan’s provincial police in the safe North and West. This would free up other ISAF POMLTs for deployment in the dangerous areas near the Pakistan border, in the ABP (Afghan Border Police), or in the ANCOP (Afghan National Civil Order Police . . . 20 elite Quick Reaction Force nationally deplorable ANP similar to the paramilitary Italian Carabinieri.) India cannot deploy POMLTs in the ANCOP or ABP since there is a good chance they would end up at the Pakistan border. India should also contribute to the ISAF provincial PRTs (Provincial Reconstruction Team) of every province India contributes POMLTs for. Either as that province’s PRT leader, or as a contributor to a PRT lead by another nation. Security and coordination of the ISAF PRTs should be transferred to the ANA when possible . . . and eventually later to the provincial ANP when the ANP is ready to assume the provincial Area of Operations responsibility from the ANA.

    According to Major General Formica (He surrendered command of the NTM-A in late November, 2009), the ANP is 4 to 5 years behind the ANA (which generally speaking fights and performs well.) The ANP needs embedded advisors far more than the ANA.

    Offering embedded advisors to the ANA (ISAF OMLTs) is problematic since every ANA combat battalion should be nationally deployable and Indian mentored ANA would not be allowed to deploy along the Pakistani border. Moreover, the ANA doesn’t need Indian embedded combat advisors nearly as much as the ANP does.

    Offering POMTs and PRTs to the safe provinces away from the Pakistan border would enable large numbers of Turkish, Italian, Spanish, German, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Swedish, Norwegian, South Korean (and many other countries) to redeploy their PRTs and POMTs to the more dangerous parts of Afghanistan; significantly accelerating Afghan progress near the Pakistani border.

    It is important to remember that the ANSF and Taliban will always bleed each other until the extremists inside Pakistan are defeated. This means that the primary international effort in Afghanistan should be and is increasing Afghan capacity (ANSF, GIRoA civilian institutions, economic development)

  20. Nitin, very interesting piece. It’s not compelling to me for the following reasons:

    It assumes that the US will actually take on the MJC if it were relieved of peace-keeping duties in Afghanistan’s North and West. This is a tenuous assumption at best. Obama will cut and run in 18 months. Apart from the timetable for withdrawal, it’s not clear that the US has clearly identified the MJC as Enemy One. They’re still salami-slicing the “M” and the “J” parts trying to pick the “good” from “bad”. Their ideas of “redeemable” and irredeemable” jihadis conveys this abundantly. Further, MacChrystal is very clear that the war is now in a defensive mode (defending Afghan civilians) rather than hounding out the Taliban/jihadis. And unlike Iraq, those hard-won gains will collapse the months after the US extricates itself. Afghanistan, as Primary Red noted, is way past the point of being able to hold itself together.

    In a cold calculation – and disregard the blowback into India – it’s not clear if the leverage we gain over the MJC is worth the political and military mess of division-sized troop deployments in hostile territory. We send a lifeline to Uncle Sam, but end up stirring up a hornet’s nest for ourselves. Since we’ve all accepted that another attack on India is unavoidable, why not wait for it and then string Pakistan out to dry economically? Starve the MJC of funds through any and all means.

    After watching Pakistan for years, I have to agree with PR that Afpak is down the black hole of chaos. There is no cure – the best we can hope for is defense against the virus.

    Regards

  21. Libertarian

    It assumes that the US will actually take on the MJC if it were relieved of peace-keeping duties in Afghanistan’s North and West. This is a tenuous assumption at best.

    If we don’t send troops, then it’s almost certain that they won’t take on the MJC. So the outcomes you must compare are the implications of (a) wherein the MJC almost certainly fills in the void in Afghanistan and (b) where India attempts to prevent this outcome, with a chance that such an intervention will crush the MJC indirectly.

    And if the US does leave Afghanistan, is it better to have Indian troops on the ground fighting with a new Northern Alliance or merely send the latter our moral support and best wishes?

  22. @#19 anan,

    You make an excellent case for where Indian support should be for Afghanistan – extended training along with embedded consultative support on the front. This along with my own recommendation of covert action against Pakistan, surprising no one ever brings it up, should be the most effective policy options for India in the Afghan-Pak region, along with the excellent Afghan civilian support that India has been providing since US invasion.

    libertarian,

    I doubt US will pull out of Afghan in 2011. It was meant as coercion on Afghan govt to get its act together. There are plenty of reports that US assured Pak that it’ll not abandon Afghan for a long time to come as assurance for Pak to take action against TTP instead of cutting a deal.

  23. If we don’t send troops, then it’s almost certain that they won’t take on the MJC. So the outcomes you must compare are the implications of (a) wherein the MJC almost certainly fills in the void in Afghanistan and (b) where India attempts to prevent this outcome, with a chance that such an intervention will crush the MJC indirectly.

    Nitin, lets face it – the US has ZERO leverage with Pakistan.It has very little interest in dealing with the military-jihadi complex. ALL that it cares about is in making sure that these crazies dont attack the US homeland

    Obama recently ordered against initiating drone strikes on Mullah Omar in Pakistani territory – he is afraid that this will make the Paki civilian Govt weaker and inflame public opinion.

    We have experience dealing with a hostile Taliban in control of Afghanistan. Whats the worst that can happen? More terrorist attacks than what India already has seen ? and its not like that these terror strikes are going to shake up indian polity or anything isit ? After all the Congress returned to power with a BIGGER and more clear majority after 26/11 attacks.

    Your Afghan strategy lacks realism and assumes that the US is concerned abt the Paki military jihadi complex… it isnt. It CANNOT be concerned as long as all its supply lines run through Pakistan.

  24. Another 150000 pound gorilla in the room that we are all overlooking is the fact that the biggest enablers of jihadism and the military jihadi complex in Pakistan is the civilian population.

    In a STUNNING poll conducted by Gallup Pakistan 59% of the Paki public think that their biggest threat is drumroll please…the US ! this is the same country that has been continuously attacked by the Taliban in the last 5 months. link

    After “crushing” the MJC, Nitin, please let us know what you are going to with the paranoid Pakis ?

  25. Nagarajan Sivakumar, the same terrorists that are mass murdering Pakistanis also want to mass murder Indian, Americans, Afghans, Europeans, Russians, Iranians and everyone else. The ISI spawned groups are becoming increasingly difficult to disentangle from each other; the mother ISI has lost control over her children–who seem intent on murdering tens of thousands of Pakistanis. The growing collaboration between Haqqani (arguably the ISI’s most important long time asset . . . with close links to Kashmiri militants) and the TTP demonstrates this.

    Can you name a single terrorist group that attacks India that doesn’t also attack America, Afghanistan, Europe and other countries? Do you have any evidence that NATO and Afghanistan are not determined to eliminate LeT, JeM, for their own survival (not to save India)?

    “We have experience dealing with a hostile Taliban in control of Afghanistan. Whats the worst that can happen? More terrorist attacks than what India already has seen ? and its not like that these terror strikes are going to shake up indian polity or anything isit ?” Violence in Kashmir fell 90% after Sept 11, 2001. Why? There “IS” a major threat of 9/11 style terrorist attacks against India. If the extremists were not tied up fighting Pakistanis and Afghans, violence against India would exponentially explode. India has to do whatever she can to help the Pakistanis and Afghans fight the extremists so that the extremists will be too busy to attack India. A massive terrorist attack on India “WOULD” threaten Indian polity. What would have happened if the Indian Parliament was blown up on Dec 13, 2001, killing the PM, the large majority of MPs and the cabinet?

    “It has very little interest in dealing with the military-jihadi complex. ALL that it cares about is in making sure that these crazies dont attack the US homeland.” This makes almost no sense. The “military-jihadi complex” poses an existential threat to America (and India, Russia, Iran, Europe and other countries.) If any Pakistani WMD get loose, can you imagine the implications for the world? Where do you think they would likely be used? Who attacked America in 1993, 1998, 2000 and 2001? What was their connection to the “military-jihadi complex?” Remember that Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Mohammed declared Osama Bin Laden to be their emir or supreme leader in 1998 and 1999. LeT and JeM arguably pose a greater threat to America than the Arab component of Al Qaeda. LeT has been involved in many of the biggest battles in Afghanistan since 2001. If President Obama didn’t believe in the threat posed to America by LeT and JeM, he wouldn’t be putting so much effort into Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    “It CANNOT be concerned as long as all its supply lines run through Pakistan.” Don’t understand your logic. ISAF and the Afghans are concerned both about the “military-jihadi complex” and their supply lines. Russia has helped establish two supply lines from the North. India could help establish a supply line through Iran. Iran–which has promised the Afghans $1.2 billion in grants–cannot allow the Taliban to defeat the Afghans. Iran nearly invaded Afghanistan in 1997 and 1998 to fight the Taliban. India’s good diplomatic offices could allow the transfer of fuel, food and trade through Iran, greatly relieving the Northern and Pakistani supply lines. Iran would benefit by collecting a transit fee for its efforts, as well as from the gratitude of Afghans.

    Iran has in the past offered to train the ANSF (as have the Russians.) Could India and Iran jointly contribute to the NTM-A mission? {The Afghan government seems reluctant to overtly accept Russian help because of Afghan perceptions of Russia.}

  26. Mr. Pai,

    “the simple logic of force fungibility”? What exactly do you mean by this?

    The objections to deploying in Afghanistan have little to do with popularity.
    Simply put, there is no reason for India to do the work for the US. If Indian troops are deployed, they will become a convenient excuse for both the US and Pakistan to blame for policy and military failures, and will increasingly have to take on the burden of controlling Afghanistan militarily.

    You also set up a straw man to argue for troop deployments to Afghanistan.
    You argue that many people who oppose troop deployments in Afghanistan would like to have military intervention in Pakistan, and make your arguments for troop deployments by pointing out the logical fallacy in this.

    However, many who oppose troop deployments in Afghanistan also oppose military intervention in Pakistan-for many of the same reasons. You have not made a good case for why India should help the US there in the first place. Furthermore, the successful use of military force is predicated on a clear strategic objective, which you have not enunciated, and which is quite unclear even to others who think about these things. Unless India is willing to govern Afghanistan and has planned for this, military intervention is a bad idea, and very possibly taking on the task of running Afghanistan is also a bad idea.

    There are no good choices for India in this situation, and to my mind at least, military intervention in Afghanistan is a particularly bad choice- for example worse even than waiting the situation out.

  27. Nitin,

    Sending troops to Afgan as part of an international force , is a good thing for India in my opnion. It will help India protect force in future.

    BUT..does India have the money to fund the operation? Military intervention requires India to pay Iran for transportation/supply and also pay expenses inside Afganistan itself. I am sure India has troops to spare and send to Afgan and India can even get away with some body-bags. But India does not have the money to fund the operation.

    US says its going to cost 30 billion dollars(?) extra for the additional troops. Indian troops cost will not be as high as the US, but still will we be able to fund it? Do we know how much the operatoin per year will cost in actual dollars/Rs ?

    –B

  28. The author is breaking his own rule of popularity-good policy to propel his own theories.

    Who is to say that India is not already involved “militarily” in Afghanistan? Its better to keep quite doing it rather than, as the author proposes, “commit” its troops, which would be public.

    Arm-chair theories will only sell books and tea bags, unless that was the whole point of this article.

  29. One way to remove a lot of “noise” in the analysis is to consider the state of the world at a future point in time when this decision becomes more important and then consider different “interesting” states of the world at that point.

    In this case, there are some events of particular interest to Indian interests: US withdrawal from Afghanisthan at some future date (there could be others, but I will just consider this one).

    Now, India’s choices depend on Pakistan’s status at that point: Best case (MJC is neutralized), medium case (Pak Military exists but Kashmir oriented jihad has been eliminated), worst case (Pakistan has successfully managed to sell its idea of “nice taliban” and asked its Jihadi cadre to take a breather giving the US the impression that it has succeeded in its mission in af-pak).

    Best case: Nothing for India to do but pump in developmental assistance to both Pak. and Af.
    Medium Case: The Military is back in the driving seat and will consider US withdrawal as a signal to reactivate jihad camps in PoK (with the US’s willing support to do so, since this will be sold as an “India-Pakistan” issue than as being part of the war on terror.
    Worst Case: Pakistan will have the capabilities in place to push its jihadi cadre into both J&K and Afghanisthan once the US leaves.

    The only interesting cases are the medium and worst case status for Pakistan (since India has low risk options in the best case but not in the other two). For these interesting cases, India’ status at that future point in time can also be broken down into Best/Medium/Worst cases.

    Best: India is in Afghanisthan and is in a position to rapidly ramp up presence in Afghanisthan to counter Pakistani plans of renewing Jihad in J&K and Afghanisthan. (either directly with boots on the ground, or indirectly by establishing a solid rapport with the Afghan Military and Police, so that the Afghan establishment is on board with resisting the Pakistani Taliban who will be active at that point.
    Medium: US leaves but Pakistan is still beset in turmoil as the Pakistani army no longer controls events in Pakistan and India’s presence is the same as it is today — this leaves both India and Pakistan with time to create trouble for the other, though time would be on India’s side.
    Worst: US leaves the Pakistani army back in control of Pakistan after anointing some random bunch of jihadis as “Al Qaeda” and pretending that the rest of Pakistan is highly enlightened and moderate. In this case, Pakistan will be able to rapidly ramp up its jihadis to operate both in J&K and Afghanisthan. In this case, time would be on Pakistan’s side, as India would have to work out modalities with its allies for troop deployment that could take months, during which time the Pakistani MJC will work hard to regain as much territory as I can.

    Summarily, in the bad cases, when Pakistan MJC is only weakened but is still hanging around after this “war on terror”, India would need to rapidly counter any Pakistani moves to roll their jihadis back into J&K and Afghanisthan.

  30. I agree with the author, there is a need to be pro active. India has instinctively developed a “Castle” mentality. Roughly translated, we think it is possible to construct an impregnable castle around ourselves which would prevent our enemies to cause any harm to us. But any security expert worth his salt knows that there is no such thing as an “Impregnable Castle” or perfect security, the maximum that can be achieved is increasing the security at places perceived to be vital so that they are relatively more secured, which is exactly what we seem to be doing, but is the lives of people people living in parliament, taj or oberoi more precious than others, don’t they too deserve same level of security?

    In a hostile environment, the most secured place is not to be huddled inside a castle but outside of it, our security forces must enter the minds of the enemy, preempt , outmaneuver and outsmart them.

  31. The question of Indian troops in afghanisthan is not related to the question of “Should India support the USA in its policies and its war in the region?”.

    The following article in state has some recent quotes from Obama admin. which makes it very clear that the US MUST fail in Af-Pak if India wants to survive in one piece in the long term — the US intent is to strengthen the Pakistani MJC, not weaken it. Furethermore, there is no US intention to leave the region with a weakened Pakistan if we look at the promises being made about staying forever in the region.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2236951

    Obama Quote from the article:

    “Officials of one allied nation who have been extensively briefed on the president’s plan said that Mr. Obama would describe how the American presence would be ratcheted back after the buildup, while making clear that a significant American presence in Afghanistan would remain for a long while. That is designed in part to signal to Pakistan that the United States will not abandon the region and to allay Pakistani fears that India will fill the vacuum created as America pulls back.”

  32. The ISI spawned groups are becoming increasingly difficult to disentangle from each other; the mother ISI has lost control over her children–who seem intent on murdering tens of thousands of Pakistanis.
    That is just a claim of yours – what exactly do you have to back them up ? The ISI has not “Lost Control” of these groups – all of them need money, logisitical support, weapons and of course safe havens. If you think that all of this is happening without active ISI support, you are indulging in a fantasy.

    The growing collaboration between Haqqani (arguably the ISI’s most important long time asset . . . with close links to Kashmiri militants) and the TTP demonstrates this.
    If the ISI REALLY wanted to take out Haqqani, they could. This collaboration that you talk about, needs to be studied thoroughly – is there a real alliance ? If so, why ? And if there is, how come Haqqani has not been sent to heaven already courtesy of US drone attacks ? Afterall if he is ISI’s asset turned traitor, why is he being kept alive ?

    And more importantly, why wouldnt the ISI join hands with India to take out Haqqani and his followers – he has now become an ENEMY of both of us, has he not ?

    Do you have any evidence that NATO and Afghanistan are not determined to eliminate LeT, JeM, for their own survival (not to save India)?
    PLEASE try to keep up with the news – there is no “NATO” operation in AfPak – its primarily US,UK,Canada and some other countries. It is all fancy to call this NATO, but for all practical purposes it is nt

    The Afghanistan war is hugely unpopular in Europe and they dont see the Taliban/AlQaeda as a long term threat as long as US troops are ready to save European a**

    Violence in Kashmir fell 90% after Sept 11, 2001. Why? There “IS” a major threat of 9/11 style terrorist attacks against India.
    Of course, violence in India would pick up once the Paki terrorists dont have to fight US troops any more. But that does not necessarily mean that we would not be able to defend ourselves – Kashmir had peaceful elections last year and people are fed up with the militancy

    Any increased violence this time around would once again depend upon local Kashmiris supporting them. That seems unlikely if not impossible after all these years of relative quiet.

    A massive terrorist attack on India “WOULD” threaten Indian polity. What would have happened if the Indian Parliament was blown up on Dec 13, 2001, killing the PM, the large majority of MPs and the cabinet?

    Nothing would have happened.We would make some noise, the US would ask us to SHUT UP like they did after the Dec 2001 attacks – and after creating a lot of noise, we will DO NOTHING.

    This makes almost no sense. The “military-jihadi complex” poses an existential threat to America (and India, Russia, Iran, Europe and other countries.

    Whoa… whoa.. slow down buddy. These guys are pretty cut throat but lets not give them more credit than what is due – are they dangerous ? sure… are they EXISTENTIAL Threats ? Nope. All the countries that you mentioned – US,India, Russia are too big to vanish from a “loose nukes” attack.

    If any Pakistani WMD get loose, can you imagine the implications for the world?
    The US is concerned about this and has tried to put some security into Pak weapons systems facilities – the whole “loose nukes” scenario has been exaggerated by the ISI to keep the US cowering.

    Loose Nukes are not like firecrackers that mysteriously vanish from the warehouse. IF a nuclear attack where to happen in the US, they would not hesitate to nuke Pakistan out of existence.

    Remember, the THREAT of Pak nukes are bigger than their nukes themselves. The Paki MJC knows this and uses this a trump card – it also knows that if it really uses nukes, the land of the pure will become the land of mushroom clouds.

    If President Obama didn’t believe in the threat posed to America by LeT and JeM, he wouldn’t be putting so much effort into Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Two things –

    Number one – this huge “effort” that you are talking about came about after Obama chewed on this for nine months. If he was so concerned about it, he would have sent these troops long time back.

    He is also under immense pressure to bring these troops as fast as possible. So US commitment to the war is largely dependent on how much longer Obama’s political base will allow him to fight the war.

    #2
    All these extra troops are not going to be effective as long as Pakistan provides safe havens to Taliban/AQ terrorists – the US is EXTREMELY wary of going into Pakistani territory – they are resorting to drone attacks and assasination attempts of terrorist leaders instead.

    Please understand the crux of the probem – The safe havens in Pakistan for the Talibani terrorists. THATS IT.

    Don’t understand your logic. ISAF and the Afghans are concerned both about the “military-jihadi complex” and their supply lines. Russia has helped establish two supply lines from the North. India could help establish a supply line through Iran.

    Again, you need to keep up with the news – Iran is on course to getting the bomb and is on a collision course with the US. The US fears a nuclear Iran more than it fears nuclear Pakistan.

    So US-Iran co-operation on Afghanistan is a non starter. Most of US supplies are primarily going through Karachi – thats how it has been for the last 8 years. Not going to change any time soon.

    Thanks for your reasoned responses.

  33. Nagarajan, allow me to respond to you in increments:

    “Most of US supplies are primarily going through Karachi – thats how it has been for the last 8 years. Not going to change any time soon.” That use to be true. Now less than half of NATO supplies go through Pakistan. The Northern route and air are becoming increasingly important. However the Northern route and air are expensive.

    “The US fears a nuclear Iran more than it fears nuclear Pakistan.” I disagree. Americans fear the Pakistani nuclear program more. In fact, one reason America doesn’t want Iran to get nuclear weapons is because America fears that Iran could become another Pakistan.

    President Obama has tried hard to reach out to Iran. So has Holbrooke. Iran has pledged $1.2 billion in grants to Afghanistan and offered to train the ANSF. In 2001 and 2002, Iran explicitly offered to train 20,000 ANA under US command. The Taliban and associated extremists (LeT, AQ, LeJ, Sipah e Sahaba, Jundullah) pose a greater threat to Iran than they do to America and Europe.

    Iran strongly backs President Karzai, Defense Minister Wardek and most of the Afghan cabinet. They were quick to endorse Karzai as the legitimate winner of the Afghan election (like Russia and India), and sided with Karzai against US/European concerns about election fraud.

    “So US-Iran co-operation on Afghanistan is a non starter.” Iranian/Indian/Russian/Afghan/NATO/Japan co-operation is not a nonstarter.

    The Japanese met with Iranian officials only a few days ago to discuss the nuclear program and collaboration on Afghanistan. Japan just pledged another $5 billion in grants to Afghanistan over 5 years (in addition to Japanese training of the Afghan National Police) and suggested joint Japanese Iranian efforts in Afghanistan. You can bet that this was coordinated with the Obama administration.

    “He is also under immense pressure to bring these troops as fast as possible. So US commitment to the war is largely dependent on how much longer Obama’s political base will allow him to fight the war.” 63% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans support the Afghan surge. General Petraues has spoken about providing the ANSF with $10 billion/year in funding for many years. To main goal of the surge is to increase ANSF capacity . . . and it is likely to succeed. Do not underestimate the resolve of the American public to prevent future terrorist attacks against America. 9/11 has changed everything. Obama ran on the platform of substantially increasing America’s commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The American people elected Obama knowing that Obama would do this.

    Why do you think the ANSF cannot win this fight? Remember that 6,000 Afghans applied to join the ANA in just the first 12 days of December {ANA can only train 5247 a month for 8 weeks each.}. Afghans want to fight the Taliban, LeT, AQ, Haqqani, etc. . . . which they see as Pakistani backed hicks.

    President Obama did not prevaricate. US troops in Afghanistan have gone from less than 20,000 in 2008 to nearly 68,000 now. The effort to train the ANSF has gone from massively under resources to substantially resourced. The US military only sends units to Afghanistan after substantial Pashtu/Dhari and Afghan cultural training. It takes time to retrain units that fought in Iraq and learned Iraqi Arabic. There is concern as is that US troops haven’t’ had enough time to prepare for their Afghan deployment. The deployment to Afghanistan couldn’t have been rushed any faster than it was. {The US has drawn down from 24 brigades in Iraq to 10 brigades . . . with a planned drop to 6 brigades by August and 4 brigades in 2011.}

    South Asian Afghanistan is very different from Iraq . . . and Gen McChrystal is determined to ensure that US troops do not replicate what they did in Iraq.

    Have you seen the guidance to all ISAF forces from General McChrystal? All ISAF troops are suppose to embed inside the ANSF, colocate, jointly plan and conduct operation with the ANSF from every level of headquarters down to the platoon and squad level. ISAF lives with and fights through the ANSF. They share common situational awareness, missions and intelligence. The guidance is on the ISAF website, and McChrystal is pushing hard for ISAF contingents to follow it.

    There are about 44,000 non US ISAF troops, which will increase to fifty some thousand. Most of them are in the fight. Look it up for yourself. Note that the ANA is nationally deployable and their ISAF mentors (OMLTS) go with them.

    The Hungarian, German, Swedish, and US Army mentored 209th ANA Corps, 2nd Brigade, is in the fight and has engaged many foreign fighters. Hungarians lead the OMLT for this ANA brigade. The other ISAF countries (including 67 US army mentors are under Hungarian command.)

    There are many other ISAF mentored ANSF units that are in the fight. Which countries do you think are not fighting?

    Just because an ISAF contingent is based in a safe area does not mean that the ANSF they mentor cannot be redeployed to a less safe area.

  34. “EXTREMELY wary of going into Pakistani territory – they are resorting to drone attacks and assassination attempts of terrorist leaders instead.”
    I think Obama is serious about dealing with this issue:
    http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawama/2009/12/pakistan-news-update-us-conducted-raids-fata.html#comments

    “Please understand the crux of the probem – The safe havens in Pakistan for the Talibani terrorists. THATS IT.” The crux of the problem is the Pakistani civil war that is radiating out in all directions . . . and risks bringing the world down with it. Have you seen how many Pakistani Army and Pakistani police have been killed by the extremists (who also seek the destruction of India, Russia, the Shiites, Persians, Sufis, NATO)?

    The real solution is to help the Pakistanis save their country by defeating the extremists. This is complicated by the fact that some disloyal parts of the Army and ISI are fighting against their countrymen and are still supporting the “good Taliban” to later use against India, the Shia, NATO, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan’s other “enemies.”

    “The US is concerned about this and has tried to put some security into Pak weapons systems facilities – the whole “loose nukes” scenario has been exaggerated by the ISI to keep the US cowering.” Do you really think Pakistan will allow anyone . . . let alone hated America help them protect their nukes? They won’t even let China help them protect their nukes. Do you really think the Pakistani nukes are secure? Pakistan has traitors at the highest level of government, army and ISI.

    “Loose Nukes are not like firecrackers that mysteriously vanish from the warehouse.” How do you know?

    “IF a nuclear attack where to happen in the US, they would not hesitate to nuke Pakistan out of existence.” I disagree. Would India also wipe Pakistan out of existence if a nuclear attack happened against India? What might happen would be conventional US operations (or conventional Indian operations) inside Pakistan.

    “Remember, the THREAT of Pak nukes are bigger than their nukes themselves. The Paki MJC knows this and uses this a trump card – it also knows that if it really uses nukes, the land of the pure will become the land of mushroom clouds.” Do you realize what the affect of a nuke in Kolkata, or Dallas, Moscow, or Najaf (global capital of the Shiites) would be? Do you understand the emotion it would cause?

    The extremists are irrational. They believe that the bliss of the transcendent is infinitely greater than all the sensual pleasures of this materialistic world put together. Extremists want to die. If they got the nukes, do you really think anything could stop them?

    If the Indian Parliament, Indian PM, almost every cabinet member, almost every MP was murdered on Dec 13, 2001, do you really think: “Nothing would have happened.We would make some noise, the US would ask us to SHUT UP like they did after the Dec 2001 attacks – and after creating a lot of noise, we will DO NOTHING.” Bhaiya, you are naive. Something would have happened. Every country has limits to its patience and forbearance, even the land of Yudhistira and the Vedas.

    In practice, more happened than you think. America and China put pressure on Pakistan to fight the extremists. Over many years this lead to the Pakistani civil war. Many thousands of Pakistani Army and Pakistani Police are now fighting and dying to resist the extremists (more than 10,000 in total have been martyred trying to save Pakistan from the extremists); extremists who would love to destroy India (and a lot of other countries around the world) if given the chance.

    Yes, the Pakistani ISI and Army in large part created the extremists who are now trying to destroy Pakistan. It is their fault. But isn’t India vastly better off that the Pakistanis are somewhat trying to defeat to extremists. Do you understand the scale of fighting going on inside Pakistan right now? More Pakistani Army and Pakistani Police have been killed by the extremists than Indian Army (since 1989.) Shouldn’t that count for something?

  35. “Of course, violence in India would pick up once the Paki terrorists dont have to fight US troops any more. But that does not necessarily mean that we would not be able to defend ourselves – Kashmir had peaceful elections last year and people are fed up with the militancy

    Any increased violence this time around would once again depend upon local Kashmiris supporting them. That seems unlikely if not impossible after all these years of relative quiet.”
    The same could have been said in 1989. Most Kashmiri’s don’t like the extremists. 91% of Afghans dislike the Taliban. But that won’t stop a large spike in violence if the extremists inside Pakistan are unleashed. What exactly could India do about it? Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Even after 9/11, the US couldn’t directly go after the extremists who enabled 9/11; (the extremists inside Pakistan.) Similarly, India cannot directly go after the extremists inside Pakistan. This is why India should support others such as the ANA who can.

    Who would you rather be running operations inside Pakistan; Indian Special Operations Forces or ANA? Remember that the ANA is 42% Pasthun. Pashtuns are almost all Sunni. At least the ANA would have some popular support among some Pakistani Pashtuns. Who would Indian SOF have popular support among?

  36. Regarding the links between Haqqani and TTP; google:
    -Lashkar al Zil
    -Iyas Kashmiri’s brigade 313

    Gen McChystal strongly emphasized the links between Haqqani and the TTP in testimony before Congress. When asked by a member of Congress what Pakistan should do, Gen McChrystal answered that Pakistan should attack Haqqani. That was the top priority.

    Let’s see if Pakistan does attack Haqqani in 2010. If they do, Haqqani’s Punjabi allies would fight to defend him.

  37. anan,
    I will TRY to get back… Thanks for youe detailed responses. This was a good exchange of opinions and thoughts… something that rarely happens in the blog world!

  38. In the present scenario , with the current “shortage” of Officers in our Armed forces , Is it “feasible” even if India wanted , to send troops to Afghanistan ?

    There is no shortage of “troops” because more can be recruited at the drop of a hat , but can the same be said about officers ?

    Otherwise , The issue of sending troops into Afghanistan is very necessary and an important need of the day , to ensure a safe neighborhood for India.

  39. India shouldn’t send troops to Afghanistan – that’s a fool’s errand, and it would play into Pakistan’s hands, to rally the locals against the infidels, just as was done against the Soviets. India needs to recognize that both Afghanistan and Pakistan are artificial patchwork countries, and that neither is capable of being truly stable – in the case of Pakistan, it compensates for its instability by exporting terror to its neighbors as part of a forward policy. India needs to use the physics of the situation to its advantage, and not try to fight physics. This means that India should work to accelerate the partition of Afghanistan, which is composed of Pashtuns trying to assert dominance over non-Pashtuns. India should help the non-Pashtuns to achieve maximum autonomy and purge Pashtun influences from their areas. This can be a prelude to these areas achieving independence. That will leave behind an Afghan Pashtun rump state which would automatically be compelled to reunite with the Pashtuns south of the Durand Line. With the dissolution of the Durand Line would come the breakup of Pakistan. Problem solved.

  40. amit,

    The Afghans want Indian officers and NCOs, not Jawans. The Afghans would prefer India’s best officers and NCOs.

    Afghanistan’s priorities in order of importance:
    – ANP (Afghan National Police) embedded advisors [most importantly judges, prosecutors and public defenders]
    – ANP trainers [most importantly judges, prosecutors and public defenders]
    – ANA (Afghan National Army) embedded advisors
    – ANA trainers

    All of these functions are heavily officer and experienced NCO centric. The quality of officers and NCOs also matter greatly; since the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) will be shaped by them.

    Ideally, India could send an FID (Foreign Internal Defense) centric “advisory” brigade or division. Such an advisory formation would have far more officers and NCOs assigned to it than a typical brigade or division.

    The US Army is converting many combat line brigades into FID centric advisor brigades. All the US Army brigades in Iraq for example, are “advisor” brigades. [The US Marines have withdrawn all their brigades from Iraq.]

    Several of the surge US Army brigades into Afghanistan are similarly “advisor” brigades.

    India should similarly convert many of its brigades and divisions into FID centric advisory formations over the medium to long run; since India’s long term interests are generally better met by increasing the capacity of others, versus engaging in operations directly. “Advisory” formations are also better suited to reconstruction, economic development, civil affairs, and dealing with Moaists inside India (by increasing the capacity of local Indian police and civilian governance.)

    This means that over time the Indian Army should have fewer Jawans and more experienced educated NCOs and officers. India also probably requires fewer than the current 34 division headquarters.

    The US Army only has 10 division headquarters, plus three Marine division headquarters; for a total of 13 division HQs. The US is simultaneously conducting combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, massive Corps level training enablement commands in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeping large numbers of troops in South Korea, Japan, Europe; and conducting training programs with over one hundred countries. All with only 13 division headquarters. Granted the US doesn’t have to defend the long Chinese border. However, like India, the US is partly (along with the ANA, ANP, and many other ISAF contributor troops) guarding the Pakistani border on the West; which is comparable in difficulty to protecting the Pakistani border on the East.

    “In the present scenario , with the current “shortage” of Officers in our Armed forces , Is it “feasible” even if India wanted , to send troops to Afghanistan ?” Yes. India has 34 division headquarters. India has resources to spare. One challenge with many militaries, India’s included, is the degree to which seniority (and politics) determines promotions. There are many high quality Indian 1st Lieutenants that can easily lead companies. There are many high quality Indian Majors that can easily lead battalions. There are many high quality Indian Lt. Colonels that can easily lead Indian brigades. There are many high quality Colonels and Brigadiers who could easily lead Indian Divisions. However, they are not promoted because of seniority rules and the complication of promoting younger officers to command older officers.

    India can solve its officer promotion issues by reassigning many existing officers to international FID [training] missions and assigning junior officers to the positions they formerly held.

    Another option is for India to offer to rehire many retired good quality Indian officers and NCOs. Afghans value old people far more than young people. Officers and NCOs that agree to be trainers (and advisors if India chooses to send advisors) for the ANSF should get special “combat” pay and perks; which would help with rehiring older retired Indian NCOs and officers.

  41. Relevant to this topic is this article, demonstrating how small the Indian commitment to Afghanistan is versus other countries:

    link

    The US has pledged $39 billion in grants to Afghanistan, with many tens of billions of dollars more in the pipeline. Japan has just pledged an additional $5 billion in grants for Afghanistan, in addition to what Japan had pledged previously.

    By comparison, India has only pledged about $2 billion. Even if India chooses not to substantially train the ANSF beyond what India is already doing, India should massively increase its economic aid to Afghanistan.

  42. @ anan ,
    really a nice idea , But can it become reality ?
    It should be understood that , as rightly brought out , no U.S president can afford to be caught in another Vietnam like situation ! therefore it stands to logic that “probably” the time table of 18 months set by Obama will be strictly adhered to , as after 18 months the countdown to the next presidential elections will begin .
    That will probably be the time to induct into afghanistan , since by then the pakis would be too exhausted to protest (probably !!:) though it is a bit far fetched !!) and the afghan taliban would also have suffered enough damage !! the idea of inducting only Headquarters of Brigades is a nice one , but then the americans also have almost 68,000 soldiers up there !!

  43. As long as US/NATO supply lines run through Pakistan, it can be taken for granted that the outcome of this “war on terror” will leave the MJC untouched in Pakistan. Let us see whether the alternate CAR/Iran supply routes come to fruition before coming to conclusions about how this war will fix jihad in India’ neighbourhood. I will believe it when I see the terrorist camps in PoK being destroyed verifiably and no new camps are constructed.

  44. Great comments, can’t find much to contribute here.

    But 2 points, both firmly within the theoretical/philosophical approach.
    1. Followers of leo strauss were fond of quoting a certain dictum – “the unintended consequences of government action are often far more important than the intended consequences”. W. and his advisors ridiculed large scale govt interventions (including ‘nation building’) as something that only saw the first order benefits and ignored second order costs. That was obviously before they became shatanksy followers. The question here is, have we thought through the unintended consequences of an indian presence in afghanistan? Besides the obvious questions of what qualifies as ‘success’ in this operation, the stomach of the indian electorate to fight a foreign war, the redistribution of leverage across interested parties (if it increases india’s leverage one way, it also decreases it another way), the unforeseeable consequences must also be factored into risk/return analysis here.
    2. As any serious student of machiavelli would tell you, the fool prince who outsources his war, gets what he deserves. If we want to outsource our battle with pakistan to the US, the way they are outsourcing their’s to pakistan, then we can be sure of failure in whatever our objective is. India’s war with Pakistan is India’s war, and India has to fight that itself. Sending troops to Af in the hope that america will fight india’s war for it, is a recipe for disaster. (Besides, what america defines as success, is probably very difft from what india’s defines it as)

    @ sivakumar (#25) – great point. The idea that the MJC is a limited entity that can be destroyed through lethal action, is essentially misguided because of the point you make. Even today, an appeal for the kashmiri cause in jang or in the mosques of lahore can generate lacks of rupees in donations for the jihad from desperately poor people. Even in the early days of the kashmiri uprising, the jklf and the rest were heavily funded from 10-20 rupee donations from average pakistanis for their kashmiri mujahideen brothers. The heart of the average pakistani is still with the jihadi and his cause, the MJC cannot be destroyed when the entire country is essentially sympathetic to it and finds common cause with it.

  45. @gbz:”the unforeseeable consequences must also be factored into risk/return analysis here.”

    Don’t mean to nitpick 🙂

    One would have to foresee circumstances before they can be factored into the analysis. If one did foresee an unforeseeable circumstance, then the act of foreseeing the circumstance would eliminate it from consideration as an unforeseeable circumstance. Sounds like the kind of thing that can make one vanish in a puff of contradiction.

  46. @sr murthy: I expected someone to point out the apparent contradiction, good to see its you again! ha!

    i think you got it with the second one..

    Just another note on nitin’s original post. If we are arguing for sending troops to afghanistan with the intention of ‘holding’ Af (as in occupying it/colonizing it), one can see many reasonable arguments in favor of that position. Legitimizing such an act would need some serious sophistry, but with america looking to wash its hands off of that mess, it shouldnt be too hard. A PERMANENT indian position in afghanistan, with the specific intention of encircling pakistan, denying them strategic depth, forcing them to fight on 2 fronts, and elevating their paranoia to the point of self-destruction, could well be a very effective long-term pakistan policy for india (whatever the economic cost – which anyway can be recovered thru the development of Af). But that would mean just India in Af with the local afghan allies, no america, no west, no War-as-a-Service mercenaries, and being prepared for the almost certain western betrayal of support. Does india have leadership with a stomach for that? Come to think of it, an indian colonization of afghanistan, with substantial resettlement of indian people in that country, is also afghanistan’s only real hope of redemption. Heck, if we want to think big and take big risks, this is something worth considering. The bajrang dal types might also get excited with the idea of renaming afghanistan Gandhara and rebuilding the bamiyan buddhas!! (which would of course be followed by the secularist denial that the bamiyan buddhas ever existed)

    Now thats a thought.. (ok ok.. )

  47. @gbz:”i think you got it with the second one.. ”

    I am not sure what you mean by “it”, but your plan of considering the worst-possible worst-case has a couple of fundamental flaws:

    1. How do you know you are at the worst possible case? When will you stop searching for a worser case and proceed with the rest of the case analysis?

    2. The more elaborate planning is, the better placed you are to handle the worst case, but the down side is that all of the resources will be wasted if the worst-case does not happen. This cost is usually acceptable only if the risks of not having the plan in place is far more costly. For example, countries will decide to spend billions of dollars to maintain weapons they will never use if the alternative is to face extinction. India is hardly in such a situation w.r.t. Pak.

    Intuitively, the worst case is less likely than the average case, and therefore the benefit of every rupee spent on the worst-possible-worst-case scenario is less than the benefit of every rupee spent on the “average” worst-case scenario. Thus, it is always better to target the plan for the most-likely (average) worst case, as supposed to the worst-possible worst case.

Comments are closed.