INILive Pilot: Bin Laden’s killing and implications for India

A live, online interactive programme on strategic affairs, public policy and governance

Here’s the recording of today’s INILive pilot.

Update: Edited transcript of the initial remarks:

In today’s programme I will analyse the issues related to the killing of Osama bin Laden by US special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan last week. I will also try to address some of your questions and comments. Today, you can interact with me over twitter, using the hashtag #inilive

Now, there can be very little doubt over whether the Pakistani military leadership, Generals Ashfaq Kayani and Shuja Pasha were aware of Osama bin Laden’s location. The ISI is competent enough for this. Usually, top leaders have “plausible deniability”, they can claim that they didn’t know what their organisations were up to. In this case, General Kayani was ISI chief at the time bin Laden supposedly moved to Abbottabad. His denials are not plausible.

But what about the operation to get bin Laden? What role might the Pakistani military have played here? There can be many explanations. Let’s talk about the three most interesting ones:

One, it was, as the Obama Adm claims, carried out unilaterally by the United States, without informing the Pakistanis. Two, it was orchestrated by the Pakistani military establishment as a card in the endgame of the war in Afghanistan. Three, and it was an outcome of an ongoing power struggle among various sections of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex. Continue reading “INILive Pilot: Bin Laden’s killing and implications for India”

Concerns about secret US raids into Pakistan

US covert operations in Pakistan pose risks to India

There is something disturbing about US raids of the sort that killed Osama bin Laden. If the level of secrecy was so high that the Pakistani military establishment was not operationally aware of who was conducting the raid, if not for what purpose, there is a risk that the Pakistanis will reflexively react as if it were an Indian attack.

The White House counter-terrorism chief’s comments add to these concerns:

Q: And I understand that there was a moment of real tension, one with the helicopter, but then also when the Navy SEALs were leaving and the Pakistani government started scrambling their jets, and there was a concern that they were coming to where the U.S. troops were, where the Navy SEALs were. Was there an actual concern that the Pakistanis — since they were not apparently informed about this military operation, was there an actual concern that they might actually take military action against the Navy SEALs?

MR. BRENNAN We didn’t contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace. At the time, the Pakistanis were reacting to an incident that they knew was taking place in Abbottabad. Therefore, they were scrambling some of their assets.

Clearly, we were concerned that if the Pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else, they didn’t know who were on those jets. They had no idea about who might have been on there, whether it be U.S. or somebody else. So we were watching and making sure that our people and our aircraft were able to get out of Pakistani airspace. And thankfully, there was no engagement with Pakistani forces. This operation was designed to minimize the prospects, the chances of engagement with Pakistani forces. It was done very well, and thankfully no Pakistani forces were engaged and there was no other individuals who were killed aside from those on the compound. [White House, emphasis added]

The military establishment is paranoid about their “strategic assets” and the notion of US, India and Israel snatching Pakistan’s nuclear weapons has been deeply socialised within the population. Presuming that John Brennan is telling the truth, what this means is that raids like the one the US conducted in Abbottabad might be seen as attempts to defuse the nuclear arsenal, especially but not necessarily if they happen to be conducted in the vicinity of nuclear weapons storage sites. This sets up a game of Crown Jewel Panic, which poses asymmetric risks for India. [See 1 2 3 4]

It is in India’s interests that the United States share information with India or Pakistan well before it conducts such operations. Now there is a chance that if India is seen to be raising its guard after receiving such information, the Pakistani army will be more inclined to believe that something is afoot, thereby raising the risks to India. So informing the Pakistanis would be the best way to lower the risks of unintended consequences. But then, informing the Pakistanis might well defeat the whole purpose of the covert raid. Therefore, given that the risks disproportionately accrue to India, keeping New Delhi in the loop is a far better option than keeping it in the dark.

Obviously, the question is “Why would the Americans tell us?” It is easy to the usual route of cribbing that they never will. That route also leads to a cul-de-sac. The other route is to ask “How can New Delhi persuade Washington that it is better that they tell us first?” The latter route is likely to be more productive.

The Osama card has been played

Because al-Afghanistan is now more valuable than al-Faida

According to television reports, Osama bin Laden has been killed by US forces at a mansion outside Islamabad Abbottabad. If this is true, it supports the long-held contention that Mr bin Laden was not hiding in a cave in the Hindu Kush, but rather, living it up in a safe house in a Pakistani city.

His death also means that the Pakistani military-jihadi complex gave him up. This will allow Barack Obama to declare victory and pull US troops out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pakistani army can then orchestrate an post-US dispensation wherein its proxies first share power with the Karzai regime. And then, sometime in the near future, take over power.

That’s how the Pakistani military-jihadi complex would like it to play out. They’ve played the Osama card rather well. They got their al-Faida. Now they want their al-Afghanistan.

Update
In the world of realpolitik, the United States is unlikely punish Pakistan for the decade of duplicity, subterfuge and violence that consumed innumerable lives and astounding amounts of money. Rather, it is more likely to want to leave with a dispensation in Afghanistan that provides plausible reassurances of not playing host to terrorists targeting the United States. It will try to make these reassurances credible by ensuring anti-Taliban anti-Pakistan elements remain powerful within the Afghan establishment. It will perhaps retain covert action capability to back this up with direct action. That said, it will accede to Pakistani demands for a role for its proxies and pro-Pakistan elements to acquire some power.

Indian strategists and analysts would do well to dust-off their memories, records and papers from the early 1990s. It is not question of if, but when, the Pakistani military-jihadi complex will redirect its attention towards India. The singular challenge for India is to prevent a relapse of the 1990s.

Update [2 May, 1724 IST]: According to a subsequent briefing by senior US government officials, the operation to kill Osama bin Laden was carried out without the knowledge and support of Pakistani agencies. If this is true, the Osama card was not played by the Pakistani military establishment, but rather, snatched from their hand by the United States. Even so, the implications, in terms of US withdrawal plans and the future of Afghanistan, remain the same.

Direct channel to Rawalpindi

Engaging the Pakistani army chief is a good idea. Conceding anything is not.

In a Pax Indica column in September 2010 I wrote about India’s engagement paradox:

New Delhi talks to the powerless but can’t talk to those in power, or vice versa. It’s most obvious in Pakistan. General Ashfaq Kayani is the man calling the shots. India has no direct channel of communication with him. The people New Delhi does talk to — the likes of President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani — have little say in the subjects that New Delhi talks to them about. This creates an illusion of movement in bilateral relations when, fundamentally, there is none. To be fair, the fact that Pakistan has such a complicated political structure (I’m being charitable here) is not India’s fault. But if the Americans can rejig their foreign policy apparatus such that some people talk to the generals while others talk to the politicians, surely, so can we. [The Acorn/Yahoo!]

Why might this be the case? In last Monday’s Business Standard column I argued that:

(One) reason why India finds itself in a bind with respect to Pakistan, where it needs to engage the real power centre but finds itself with no means to. It is not a matter of matching protocol, for it is not purely military matters that we wish to discuss with General Kayani. Washington, in comparison, handles this a lot better through Admiral Mullen and General David Petraeus, the CENTCOM chief, who are the primary interlocutors with the Pakistan army. Given that these admirals and generals are engaged in diplomatic activities of serious importance to India, can we afford to stay out of the military diplomatic loop?[The Acorn/Business Standard]

While India has not shied from talking to Pakistani army chiefs after they become dictators, dealing with General Ashfaq Kayani directly challenges diplomatic optics. The 26/11 attacks and their aftermath left no doubt that it was he, and not the Zardari-Gilani government, that was in charge. Yet, because he did not announce himself to be the dictator, chief executive or president of Pakistan, the Indian government couldn’t openly deal with him.

Bharat Karnad first alluded to a direct back channel engagement late last month (linkthanks Swami Iyer). However, it was a London Times report over the weekend that captured attention in India. The Prime Minister’s Office has issued a carefully worded denial while the Pakistani military spokesman declined to comment. It is highly likely that the reports are generally accurate and a direct channel, albeit with some deniability, has been in place for the last few months. [See this post at Pragmatic Euphony]

Why it makes sense to engage
It makes sense to directly engage the real centre of power in Pakistan. First, it allows India’s policymakers to both understand the Pakistani army’s motivations, thinking and demands, and also to communicate its own positions (both bilateral and those relating to Afghanistan). [See editorials in Mint and Indian Express]

Second, initiating an engagement “ten months ago” could have helped tactically buy respite from terrorist attacks during a critical period—post-crisis economic recovery and the world cup cricket tournament. Tactically again, it could be intended to reduce the heat of the 2011 summer in Kashmir.

To induce co-operation, though, India might have to indicate its flexibility on some issues: most likely, downplaying demands to prosecute Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders and playing up the resolution of the Sir Creek and Siachen issues.

Why such engagement is risky
For all its advantages, engaging Kayani & Co is not without risks.

First, there is a risk that it will lull the Indian security establishment into believing in the other sides’ bona fides, as after Vajpayee’s bus ride to Lahore. Keeping it secret mitigates this risk to some extent, but to the extent that it affects the psychologies of the prime minister and the top echelon of the national security apparatus, the risk of being backstabbed should concern us. Even if General Kayani himself were to have a miraculous change of heart, the Musharraf’s Musharraf effect, wherein the military-jihadi complex will act to pull the rug from under its own leader, cannot be discounted.

Second, there is a risk that the flexibility that the Indian negotiator must show in order to induce co-operation will end up locking New Delhi in. There is a perception that Siachen, for instance, is a low-hanging fruit that India can “give” to show sincerity. This is wrong: India must climb down from the Saltoro ridge entirely on its own terms. The larger issue here is that allowing the Pakistani military-jihadi complex to believe that the threat of terrorism under a nuclear umbrella will force India to concede anything is a very bad idea.

Third, a consistent impression has been created in the Indian mind that India’s approach to Pakistani aggression is to turn the other cheek. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dogmatic approach to pursuit talks, first with Zardari-Gilani & Co and now with Kayani, risk a public backlash that risk undermining any mutual gains that might have been made as a result of it.

Fourth, Dr Singh is bargaining from a position of personal weakness, the worst position to be in while opening negotiations. He has long been out on a limb on Pakistan policy, and is just one terrorist attack away from being out of office. His government is now on the ropes on the matter of corruption and malgovernance. This compounds the risks of him making concessions in order to stay afloat.

Finally, New Delhi is reducing the pressure on General Kayani at a time when Washington is raising it. The Pakistani military-jihadi complex must be contained in the short-term. Squandering opportunities to bring forward the crunch time in Rawalpindi is an unwise move.

So what should we make of it?
On the balance, that New Delhi has chosen to open up a direct line with the Pakistani Army’s GHQ is a good thing. It could have been better timed though. We should be concerned that it is a dogmatic Dr Singh who is handling the secret, opaque process. For that reason, public debate and the political process should put a backstop on the proceedings. Opposition parties, especially the BJP, would do well to prohibit the Prime Minister from making even the smallest concession of substance.

Pax Indica: Understanding Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex

Identifying the source of the threat

Excerpt from today’s Pax Indica column at Yahoo!:

The military-jihadi complex is a dynamic network of military, militant, radical Islamist and political-economic structures that pursues a set of domestic and foreign policies to ensure its own survival and relative dominance.

What does the military-jihadi complex comprise of? Obviously, it includes the Pakistani armed forces, their intelligence agencies, their commercial enterprises (that Ayesha Siddiqa refers to as ‘MilBus’) and cliques of retired military officers and their associated political-economic interests. These might be said to constitute the first node.

The second node consists of radical Islamist organisations and their large networks of militant groups, such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa/Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Given that these groups rely on Islamism to recruit and motivate their cadres, they are also connected with international Islamist causes and networks such as al-Qaeda. Organised crime syndicates are another aspect of this node.

The third node is formed by political and bureaucratic actors who might be members of various political parties and occupy positions in the government, but represent the interests of the military-jihadi complex. The fourth node includes civil society groups, think tanks, NGOs and sections of the media. [Yahoo!]

Hanging by its kerry

The US-Pakistan relationship is fraying but not yet broken

So the New York Times reports that “it is increasingly apparent that (the United States and Pakistan) have differing, even irreconcilable, aims in Afghanistan.”

With the Afghan endgame looming, suspicion is overwhelming faint cooperation between the United States and Pakistan, as each side seeks to secure its interests, increase its leverage to obtain them, and even cut out the other if need be, American and Pakistani officials say.

No one in Pakistan or in Washington now speaks of returning to the strategic alliance made by President George W. Bush and Gen. Pervez Musharraf immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the primary goal was to operate joint intelligence efforts to capture operatives of Al Qaeda. Military officials from both sides say that arrangement was never bound to be a longstanding affair.

“There was never a level of trust,” said a former American military official who served in a senior position in Pakistan. “I’m convinced now they don’t want our help.” [NYT]

We have long been of the view that this is bound to happen.

Sooner or later, the Obama administration will come to realise that it has no way to make the Pakistani military establishment seriously fight and defeat the jihadi groups, which includes the Taliban, al-Qaeda and outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba. When that moment comes, Barack Obama will need to choose between direct confrontation with the Pakistani military-jihadi complex and colossal strategic defeat…[Mint/The Acorn]

We had argued that it was in India’s interests to force such a reckoning sooner rather than later. In the event, India acted neither to accelerate nor decelerate this process, things took their course, and the moment of truth is now much closer than it was when the Obama administration took office. Yet, the United States has an enormous interest in ensuring that the breakup doesn’t happen, and if it does, happens without violence or an emotional breakdown. The military-jihadi complex in Pakistan has created a public atmosphere in Pakistan where General Kayani will be feted if a breakdown were to occur. Washington too is aware of this.

All is is part of a broader negotiating game. If the Pakistanis take you to the edge of a cliff its because they are relatively more comfortable bargaining from there.

Tailpiece: A kerry, according to the Meaning of Liff, is the small twist of skin that separates two sausages.

My op-ed in WSJ Asia – Dr Singh’s leap of faith

India’s decision to resume dialogue with Pakistan is a triumph of faith over reason

The following is the original draft of my op-ed that appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal Asia earlier this week:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waited until public memory of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai on 26th November 2008 faded to a level that it was politically feasible for him to resume the composite bilateral dialogue with Pakistan. The attacks had compelled him to reluctantly suspend official talks two years ago. Despite increasingly compelling evidence that the Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out those attacks with the connivance of the Pakistani military establishment, Islamabad has preferred to engage in a dilatory game of dossiers-and-lawsuits to avoid having to take any action against the perpetrators of one of the most provocative acts of terrorism in recent years. Yet, in the absence of the tiniest acts of good faith from his Pakistani counterparts, Prime Minister Singh has dogmatically persisted with his pursuit of dialogue — a policy which last week saw New Delhi effectively yielding to Pakistan’s demand of talks without preconditions.

Dialogue for Mr Singh is neither an eyewash to satisfy the international community nor a pragmatic policy tied to outcomes. It is almost a matter of faith, oblivious to facts or reason. Continue reading “My op-ed in WSJ Asia – Dr Singh’s leap of faith”

Reality and composite dialogue

Why India is talking to Pakistan again and why it won’t achieve anything

Samanth Subramanian’s report in The National quotes my comments on New Delhi’s decision to resume the-composite-dialogue-but-we-won’t-call-it that with Pakistan:

Not calling the new talks a resumption of “composite dialogue” is important for both countries, said Nitin Pai, a fellow at the Takshashila Institution, an independent strategic-affairs think tank based in Chennai. “The Indian side will look at each of the six or seven rounds of discussions, before the foreign ministers’ meeting, as a hurdle that Pakistan has to cross. The Pakistani side will say that it has resumed dialogue and gotten what it wants,” Mr Pai said. “From a purely diplomatic point of view, it’s a success to have broken the logjam.”

Mr Pai said the friction between the countries comes from India’s disconnect between “reality and the Indian government’s approach towards whatever is happening in Pakistan. You would expect things to move with reciprocity—create good faith, then take small steps”.

Instead, he said, the Indian government “driven by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is pursuing a dogmatic approach—that they have to pursue talks”. For this reason, he said, he expects “nothing concrete” to come out of them. [The National]

This warrants a more detailed post. At the political level, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waited until public memory of 26/11 faded to a level that it was politically feasible for him to resume the bilateral dialogue that he was compelled to suspend in December 2009. Whether at Sharm-el-Sheikh or at Thimphu last year, Dr Singh has dogmatically pursued dialogue with Pakistan, bending over backwards and in the face of Pakistani brazenness of epic proportions.

Faith is oblivious to facts or reason. The fact that the pompous poseurs that pass off as Pakistan’s civilian government are powerless to deliver on anything (other than meeting for talks and track-2’s) is immaterial to India’s prime minister. That General Ashfaq Kayani cannot wind down the military’s jihadi components even in the unlikely event that he wants to is lost on him. He is unconcerned that the rapid growth of Pakistan’s China-backed nuclear arsenal and US-financed conventional armoury suggests intentions inimical to rapprochement. No, Dr Manmohan Singh just wants to solve all problems by dialogue. Therefore the disconnect between India’s policy approach and objective reality.

The challenge for India’s diplomats was not so much to agree to talks with Pakistan and invite the insufferable Shah Mehmood Qureshi to New Delhi. Those were given. It was about how to do it in a manner that will not be seen as a complete cave-in to Pakistani demands. They achieved it by splitting the difference. The Pakistani side got the composite dialogue that they wanted without having to try or imprison anyone remotely connected with the 26/11 terrorist attacks. The Indian side can say that, well, we will ensure that the Pakistanis will jump seven hurdles before we make you suffer the insufferable Mr Qureshi in July.

Once a date is suggested for Mr Qureshi’s visit, the expectation is set. Whether or not the Pakistanis cross the seven hurdles, it will be extremely difficult—okay, practically impossible—for New Delhi to call off the foreign ministers’ meeting. The only hope that we’ll be spared Mr Qureshi’s obnoxious posturing is if someone else gets appointed foreign minister before then*.

Don’t believe all the solutions agreed to in track-2’s or track-1’s or track-0’s. They aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Those who believe such promises need to understand the concept of counterparty risk. It is not a coincidence that the all-powerful General Pervez Musharraf’s political decline began around the time he presented his back-channel proposals to the Pakistani army leadership.

While talks and dialogue might impress the international community with the masochistic capabilities of India’s foreign policy, they will amount to nothing. You can’t hope to achieve much by negotiating with the dog. You must negotiate with its master.

* Update: Mr Qureshi won’t be coming in July after all. He didn’t get the foreign affairs portfolio in today’s reshuffle.

The Raymond Davis Drama

Looks like the North Waziristan operation will be postponed again

From the very beginning, it was hard to shake off the suspicion that the Raymond Davis affair involved covert operatives from both the United States and Pakistan. That Mr Davis was engaged in diplomacy by other means should have been clear to anyone with a passing familiarity of the business (attained, perhaps, by the study of the scholarly works of David John Moore Cornwell or Ian Lancaster Fleming). Once the US embassy confirmed that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity it was a matter of pedantic or professional interest as to whether he worked for the CIA, DHA, State Department or indeed was a private security contractor employed by the US government.

But what was less discussed, at least until a couple of days ago, was that the two Pakistanis men (referred to as ‘youths’ or ‘boys’ in the Pakistani media) he killed might have also been engaged in diplomacy by other means. (Incidentally, Express Tribune pulled the initial report, here’s the cached article). Diplomats and foreign journalists who have served in Pakistan are familiar with such diplomacy, not infrequently conducted from a motorcycle. It would be of pedantic or professional interest as to whether they worked for the ISI, Intelligence Bureau or some other “agency”.

It is possible that the dust-up between Mr Davis and the two Pakistanis was the result of the escalation of free and frank discussions to a higher calibre. It is also possible that the two Pakistanis, and one of their innocent counterparts, lost their lives in the risky venture of creating a dust-up.

Consider. There are two possibilities why Lahore police would arrest a white American man who identified himself as US diplomat with immunity. First, that they were told to do so by higher authorities. Second, that the local authorities were so radically anti-American—consistent with general public sentiment—that they were willing to disregard claims of diplomatic immunity, and brazen out the consequences. This is unlikely, not least because it would mean some people would lose their jobs in the process.

General Kayani’s guidance to the interior minister reminding him to keep Mr Davis’ military background in mind supports the hypothesis that the military-jihadi complex instigated this drama. Why?

That is hard to say. It is, however, the biggest beneficiary of the crisis. Politically, it is the Zardari government—which it has no love for—that is on the ropes, caught between an increasingly tough Washington and an increasingly anti-American public sentiment. Even if the matter is resolved in a few days’ time by getting the judiciary to affirm his diplomatic immunity, the episode can be offered as a reason, yet again, for the Pakistani army to avoid launching the much delayed operation against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in North Waziristan. The overall rise in temperature works to call for a reduction in US drone attacks, using the argument that doing so is necessary to lower anti-American feelings.

The Pakistani military leadership calculates that the United States can suspend bilateral relations or aid for a short while, but overall, the risk of a permanent break is low. It is not wrong. That is why it can afford to rock the boat—with terrorist attacks or diplomatic dramas—to pre-empt US coercion. After all, for the Pakistani military-jihadi complex, poking the United States in the eye is less risky compared to having to really fight itself.

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Related Link: Najam Sethi has an excellent analysis of the affair.

How to spot the next revolution

Demographics, mobile phone penetration and the army’s disposition

Earlier this month, after the protests in Tunisia caused the reigning despot to fly to Saudi Arabia, this blogger said that the phenomenon is unlikely to spread. In the event this was proven wrong by Egypt. Bear this in mind as you read the rest of this post.

How can we tell which country is susceptible to political transformation brought about by “people power”? Here’s a rough guide:

First, look at demographics. Scholars such as Samuel Huntington, Jack Goldstone, Gunnar Heinsohn and Henrik Urdal argue that if there are a large number of young, healthy, educated and dissatisfied men, the stage is set for unrest. Of these Mr Heinsohn goes the furthest, predicting that when the population of 15 to 29-year-olds crosses 30 percent of the overall population, then, regardless of the cause, violence will ensue. The countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Arab North Africa, the mainland Arabia and Pakistan meet this criterion. Turkey and Iran are exceptions. [Related link: The New Security Beat blog has a good discussion on this]

Second, look at mobile telephone and internet penetration. Mobilising large numbers of people in short periods of time requires ubiquitous access to mobile phones and the internet. This is important because state machinery can pre-empt large protests if they have enough time to identify, intimidate or imprison the field organisers. That is why Twitter (and to an extent Facebook) beat SMS text messages, and why text messages beat phone calls and pamphlets. A tweet is likely to reach any given fraction of the population orders of magnitude faster than a SMS text message. Most importantly, they work in combination—a tweet can be relayed on SMS, and vice versa.

(In fact, the failure to account for this factor might be one reason why I underestimated the likelihood Egypt will stir. Both Hosni Mubarak and I might have been stumped by the speed of the mobilisation.)

While technology allows faster mobilisation, it does not create leadership or an alternative political vision. It is not surprising that some of the recent “leaderless” uprisings do not have a clear idea of “what next?” beyond the toppling of the current regime. What this means is that organised political groups—like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt—can wait for the uprising to oust the incumbent, even let a transition government operate for a while, before stepping in to take over. Not unlike what the Pakistani military-jihadi complex did following the ouster of General Musharraf.

Third, when it comes to the crunch, look at whether the security forces—specifically the army—will fire upon their own people. This is both a yes/no question, as well as a question of extent.

In countries with compulsory military service, it is less likely that the army will fire on its own people. In countries where the armed forces are insulated from the general public—culturally, socio-economically or ideologically—then it is more likely that the army will not have such compunctions. That is why Iran has a special revolutionary guard that is distinct from the army. This is also why the Pakistani army engages in massive domestic skulduggery, because its leaders do not want to be in a situation where they have to fire at Pakistanis from the Punjabi heartland.

Worked Examples

Tunisia
Demographics: median age 29, (borderline) check.
Mobile phone penetration 95.3%, check. Internet 4.5% no check.
Army: Didn’t fire

Egypt
Demographics: median age 24, check.
Mobile phone penetration 77%, check. Internet 21.1% no check.
Army: ?

The rest is left as an exercise for the interested reader.