After the Kabul embassy bombing

How should India respond?

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza argues that India should stick to its strategy:

In the aftermath of the July 7 attack, some Indian analysts have suggested an active role for India in the security affairs of Afghanistan. They characterise the Indian Defence Minister’s April 2008 ruling out of the option of sending troops to Afghanistan as “deficient strategic thinking”. Such analysis, to say the least, is based on a complete lack of understanding of the dynamics of insurgency in Afghanistan. It also ignores the far reaching benefits flowing to the Afghan people from the activities that India has been engaged in and which in fact has troubled the Taliban and its sponsors.

It needs to be understood that India, like many other countries, is operating in a highly insecure environment in insurgency-ravaged Afghanistan. In such a scenario, while attacks of the magnitude of the July 7 incident can be better avoided with adequate security preparedness, these certainly do not call for a dramatic reconsideration of India’s non-involvement in security operations. The Government of India should maintain its present course of minimal presence of its security forces personnel coupled with long term developmental activity that weaves aid delivery around greater Afghan ownership and participation. Sending troops to Afghanistan would merely serve as a red rag for the Taliban and its sponsors, even as it causes resentment among common Afghans at the introduction of more foreign troops into their land. Better security for Indian personnel and projects can actually be ensured by working in conjunction with Afghan security forces (including community policing) and other stakeholders interested in building a stable Afghanistan. [IDSA Strategic Comments]

Dr D’Souza has a point. The security situation in Afghanistan today is very different from what it was two years ago. So India would do well to avoid becoming a significant military combatant in the Afghan war. Rather, it would do well to press the United States, and especially NATO, to enhance their military commitments to Afghanistan.

However, additional troops might be necessary to secure Indian re-construction efforts. This is the other factor determining troop levels. Therefore, instead of a policy that rules out additional troops, India’s response should be one of constantly calibrating its security presence.

In any case, the point of focus is quite likely to be Pakistan. As Praveen Swami writes in The Hindu today, an unavoidable (from India’s perspective) “proxy war” is already going on in Afghanistan. Given the state of affairs in Pakistan, reading the signals right, and achieving escalation control in the proxy war is the fundamental challenge to India’s Afghanistan policy.

At last, some terrorists arrested

Surprise! It’s the Lashkar-e-Taiba/ISI nexus

The Uttar Pradesh police have arrested some suspected terrorists. We’ll have to wait for B Raman and Praveen Swami to tell us the whole story…but this much we know: these arrests come after a very long time.

Six Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, who were involved in the terror attacks on the CRPF Group Centre in Rampur and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, were arrested in Rampur and here late on Saturday night and early hours of Sunday by the Special Task Force (STF) of the Uttar Pradesh Police.

While eight persons, including seven CRPF personnel, were killed in the January 1 Rampur attack, one scientist died and few others injured in the Bangalore attack on December 29, 2005 during a seminar in the J.N. Tata auditorium.

Uttar Pradesh Director-General of Police Vikram Singh said Pakistan nationals Amar Singh alias Abu Zaar and Abu Osama, who played a major role in the Rampur and Bangalore attacks, planned terror strikes at Churchgate in Mumbai, the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Army convoys in Rampur and Bareilly.

Initial interrogation showed that before the Rampur attack, the ultras were given training in intelligence gathering and handling explosives for about a month by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). [The Hindu]

Update: B Raman and Praveen Swami with the details.

Friday Squib: Unconventional war footing

The things that they believe in America!

Fred Gedrich, a former US government official, in the Washington Times:

Pakistan could do two things to diminish the Islamic extremist threat: develop an unconventional warfare capability and cut off the stream of jihadis coming out of madrassas.

Pakistan hasn’t been able to succeed in pacifying the lawless tribal region and elsewhere because it’s using conventional troops, weapons and tactics against enemies who don’t wear uniforms, carry weapons openly or abide by international war rules.

It needs to transition to an unconventional war footing (special military forces working with local populations and performing clandestine operations) but presently doesn’t have this capability. The United States offered to provide training, advice and support, but Pakistan’s government hasn’t fully accepted the offer yet… [WT, emphasis added]

Mr Gedrich, despite having worked for the State and Defense departments (or perhaps because of it) seems hopelessly ignorant of Pakistan’s history. The problem is not that the Pakistani army does not have unconventional warfare capacity or that it can’t do clandestine operations. The problem is that it has and did too much of it.

Who orchestrated Rashid Rauf’s escape and why

Seven possibilities

1. The ISI—because Rauf was working for them, and, like Omar Saeed, just can’t be allowed to fall into the hands of British or American authorities. Like what Rauf’s lawyer alleges, he could have been “mysteriously disappeared”. If this is so, the good people at the Gulshan-e-Abad mosque might be the last ones to have seen him alive.

2. The ISI (Musharraf & Co)—because they wanted to hand him over to British authorities in an off-the-books transaction. The British authorities might, after a decent interval and due process, extradite two Baloch nationalist leaders that Pakistan wants in return. Since there would be no formal quid pro quo, the British government will avoid criticism for engaging in this ugly trade.

3. Jaish-e-Mohammed/Al-Qaeda/The ISI (Gul & Co)—because he was working for them and there was a risk that he would be extradited to the UK.

4. The British/Americans—because they suspected that the Pakistanis will never let Rauf fall into their hands, ever.

5. Rashid Rauf’s family—because he was family. The Rauf family does not lack resources or connections. The story of his escape suggests that the family did play a role in facilitating his escape. Whether they did so on their own accord, or were merely acting on behalf of someone else is the question.

6. The Baloch insurgents—because they wanted to prevent him being exchanged for Faiz Baluch and Hyrbyair Marri, Baloch nationalist leaders currently in British custody. The fact that there was official collusion in Rauf’s escape makes this explanation extremely unlikely.

7. Rashid Rauf himself—because the story of his escape, incredible as it seems, could actually be true. He seized the moment and fled.

Weekday Squib: How Rauf escaped

Please make it more believable!

When it was time to take Rashid Rauf back to Adiala jail after his court appearance, one of his uncles convinced the policemen on duty to use his comfortable Mitsubishi station wagon for the journey, instead of the usual police van. They stopped at a McDonald’s restaurant at Jinnah Park along the way. And then allowed Rauf and his uncle to pray at a mosque at Gulshan-e-Abad while they waited in the car outside. They even unlocked his handcuffs. After twenty minutes had passed, the policemen went in to see what was taking Rauf so long. And found that uncle and nephew had slipped out through the back door.

Quite a lot to swallow. Especially when Rauf’s lawyer says the uncle could not have been in the mosque because he was away in the Kashmir region.

They’ve formed a team to investigate how all this happened. They have started arresting uncles. But they are also saying that “at this time it is impossible to tell if Rashid Rauf is in Pakistan” and dropping hints that “it would be such a terrible thing” if he were to head for the North West Frontier Province and then on to Afghanistan.

One can understand that why the ISI should want to spirit him away. But taking the plot from Bollywood comedies is just too much.