Stratpage Updates on Pakistan

Looks like it’s Pakistan day here on SM. So, I figured that Mutineers might enjoy a series of interesting updates on Pakistan from one of my fav milblogs, Strategy Page. My single biggest beef with Stratpage is the lack of outside links so, take everything here with the requisite grain of salt. However, their material does & has generally lined up with info from other news sources over time and it’s very valuable to find it in nice bite sized chunks here.

The stats on Afghan refugees formerly & currently in Pakistan helps frame how intertwined the 2 countries are –

October 9, 2008: In Pakistan, the government has ordered all 70,000 of the remaining Afghan refugees (there since the 1980s Russian invasion of Afghanistan) in Bajaur to return home. In the last few months, some 20,000 have already fled back to Afghanistan. Most of the two million Afghan refugees went home after the Taliban were chased out of power in late 2001…

Pakistan’s internal toll from terrorism (particularly security forces asked to confront lawless regions) gives some context to why they’re sometimes skiddish to putting more boots on the ground in NWFP –

October 8, 2008: The head of the ISI gave members of Parliament a rare briefing. Although secret, and apparently superficial, some details leaked out. In the last fifteen months, over 1,200 Pakistanis have been killed by Islamic terrorist attacks (including 117 suicide bombings). In the last seven years, nearly 1,400 security forces personnel have died fighting Islamic radicals (Taliban and al Qaeda).

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Floating Guantanamos in the Indian Ocean

The Guardian is reporting something we probably should have suspected: According to the human rights watch group Reprieve the United States has been, and continues to operate floating prisons to extrajudicially interrogate and house suspected terrorists:

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped. [Link]

I think that as G.W. Bush’s term ends we will be seeing ever more skeletons (pardon the pun) fall out of the closet. Traditionally, as soon as the Democrat and Republicans have chosen a nominee, they begin to receive briefings from the CIA on a host of national security topics and current operations. This is done to assure some degree of continuity by keeping the potential president elect informed. A transition is also a time when you’d expect increased leaking of information as new people look under the hood.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans. [Link]

We have previously written about Diego Garcia here and here (where the use of the island as a secret detention center was discussed). Continue reading

Warrior-scholar falls

Last week the nation lost Michael Vinay Bhatia to the war in Afghanistan (an IED of course). To say he was a unique breed of “soldier” would be an understatement:

Michael Vinay Bhatia, 31, was serving as a social scientist embedded with troops in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program.

HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro said, “He was an example of a brilliant scholar who could have made his job and done well in the U.S., but who of his own accord discovered our program and volunteered to participate as a team member fully understanding the risks. This makes him a hero three, four times over…”

A magna cum laude graduate of Brown University, Bhatia was a doctoral candidate at Oxford University. “He had a lot of integrity as a scholar in terms of studying conflict and its impact on civilians and he was willing to take that into an operational field,” said Sarah Havens, a former Brown classmate. “He was adamant that that was the right thing to do.”

Bhatia’s dream of making a difference also took him to war-torn East Timor. But friends said they believed Bhatia was looking forward to a peaceful life back home. “I got the sense this was the last hurrah for him,” Havens said. “He was building his nest egg and looking for academic positions in the States for when he came back…” [Link]

I first heard about the Human Terrain Systems Program in an NPR story a few months ago (worth listening to). The idea is quite brilliant, the type of idea that our disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could use more of if we want to see a real turn around. The basic purpose of the HTS teams is to learn about the people and customs of a region so that they can advise the military on how to win hearts and minds, not through bluster, but through mutual understanding:

  • HTS was developed in response to identified gaps in commanders’ and staffs’ understanding of the local population and culture, and its impact on operational decisions; and poor transfer of specific socio-cultural knowledge to follow-on units.
  • The HTS approach is to place the expertise and experience of social scientists and regional experts, coupled with reach-back, open-source research, directly in support of deployed units engaging in full-spectrum operations.
  • HTS believes that achieving national security objectives is dependent on understanding the societies and cultures in which we are engaged. [Link]
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Has the Tiger been leashed by the Dragon?

China continues to deploy troops in an effort to quell any protests in/over the “disputed region” of Tibet as the Summer Olympics, China’s coming out party, inches ever closer:

Chinese troops and police have tightened their hold on Tibetan areas in the westernmost region of the country as they work to keep anti-government protests from spreading.

Journalists and activist groups have reported large numbers of troops in provinces along Tibet’s eastern border…

Peaceful protests against Chinese rule in Tibet began last week and gradually turned violent.

China says at least 16 people were killed in riots in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa Friday. But the Tibetan government-in-exile says at least 99 people have been killed in the unrest. [Link]

Last week the nation of Nepal bent over for China by caving to a request to shut down all points on Mt. Everest higher than base camp between now and the middle of May. The beginning of May is thought to be a prime time for a summit attempt, groups having spent the few weeks before that steadily climbing and acclimating. Only a Chinese team, carrying the Olympic torch, will be allowed to proceed, without worry that they will be met by Tibetan protestors at or near the top. All those that may have spent years planning for their ascent attempt get screwed. This isn’t as trivial as it sounds since tourism related to Everest brings a large chunk of money and prestige to the impoverished nation. On the brightside, it looks like Nepal might have begun to come to its economic senses in the past few days. They are no longer “sure” about acceding to China’s original request:

“How could they do something so devastating to the economy and to a Nepalese icon?” said Peter Athans, a 50-year-old American mountaineer who has reached the summit of Everest seven times. “A country superior in size and power is grinding under foot Nepal’s small but very important tourist industry.”

An expedition leader who has a group of 14 clients arriving next week said: “We just want to climb. But suddenly we have this other priority. We don’t need the Chinese intimidating us.” The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism backed away from its ban yesterday, with a spokesman insisting that the season’s 25 Everest expeditions would proceed as planned. “You can go any time to Everest,” he said. [Link]
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Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai 2007

India and China are just about to wrap up joint military exercises, 45 years after the border war which put an end to the phrase which serves as the title of this post. The CSM reports:

The decision to hold joint Army exercises, ending tomorrow, in China’s Yunnan Province, is admittedly a small measure. But it is the first time the two armies have cooperated in such a way, and it comes on the heels of rapidly expanding Sino-Indian ties in business and politics…

This being the first Army exercise between the two countries, it has been small. Only 95 Indian soldiers have traveled to Yunnan Province, where they are participating in counterterrorism drills. But the joint exercise is expected to become an annual event, helping each side become better acquainted with the other.

“These are building blocks being put in place,” says Rahul Bedi of Jane’s, a London-based military analysis firm. “It’s a part of the learning process…” [Link]

And what did they name these exercises? Operation Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? Sadly, no. That would have been the name if only I were in charge. Instead, the name given to these joint training exercises was “Hand-in-Hand 2007.” Hand-in-Hand? These are supposed to be warriors not playmates. For your viewing enjoyment I have posted some of the most exciting pictures from the the last several days:

Chinese soldier teaches Indians that the best way to defend against a sledge hammer to the head is by using the nearest pile of bricks for protection. They swear it works and that Indians should try.

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The Indian Army in WWII Italy

For many folks, the most widely recognized pop culture image of Desi soldiers in WWII was Naveen Andrews’ portrayal of Kip, the Sikh soldier, in the film version of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. Kip was a combat engineer / bomb removal expert for the British army in Italy and his love affair with Hana, the gorgeous nurse played by Juliet Binoche, formed one of the central plot lines of the movie.

Oh bury me at Cassino
My duty to England is done
And when you get back to Blighty
And you are drinking your whisky and rum
Remember the old Indian soldier
When the war he fought has been won!

-Indian 8th Infantry Division
War Song from the WWII Italian Campaign

When I saw the flick, I recall many a female audience member shuddering at Kip’s “hair scene” – much to my progressively follicle-challenged chagrin…

Still, Ondaatje’s use of Kip in such a significant role is laudable not just because Kip is a strong, attractive & clearly desi male in a leading romantic role but also because it implicitly frames the presence of folks like him as relatively commonplace. I recently stumbled across a fascinating, slick, Indian-produced documentary that goes into much more detail on the “real Kips” who participated in the Allied offensive in Italy. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, it appears the entire documentary is online and available for your viewing pleasure after the fold.

Naveen Makes It Look Easy

The facts, sights, and sounds of the video are an impressive testament to an often overlooked chapter in history. Desi losses in the multi-day assault on the Gustav line, for example, numbered over 1000 – a figure comparable to US losses on D-Day. An Italian countryside scene shows a field of Hindi-inscribed tombstones that hits you in the gut. The UK’s highest military honor, the Victoria Cross, was awarded to its youngest WWII recipient during these battles – 19 yr old Kamal Ram. As is common in these sorts of documentaries, snapshots of soldier’s daily lives provide poignant color – such as the Sikhs making Naan on makeshift ovens. Local Italians, some of whom were barely teenagers at the time, discuss their impressions of these “handsome” soldiers from afar who’ve come to fight for their liberation and attend modern day memorial services to commemorate their sacrifice.

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J. Ashwin Madia – Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District

My cousin Manan (who is also an Iraq War Vet) just forwarded me the news that 29-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jigar Ashwin Madia just announced his candidacy for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives:

U.S. Marine Corps Iraq veteran J. Ashwin Madia announced his candidacy to represent Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District Tuesday.

Madia will seek the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement.

While serving as a Marine, Madia was also a prosecutor, defense attorney, and legal advisor to a Marine Corps commander.

Madia graduated from Osseo Senior High School. He went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota and New York University School of Law. [Link]

First thought (albeit very shallow)? It isn’t going to hurt him that he looks that good. I have a feeling that the comments section in this post is going to have a lot of female commenters leaving onomatopoeic words like “Rrrrrrr.” But does Jigga-man got the necessary skills to go with those looks? He is currently working at attorney at Robins, Kaplan, Miller, and Ciresi LLP in Intellectual Property Litigation.

Drawing on his experience in Iraq, Madia plans to make the war a major issue in his campaign. He also hopes to focus on balancing the budget and fighting global warming. What he stressed most frequently, however, is his desire for this campaign to be a real dialogue between the candidates. Madia says he wants as many debates and candidate forums as possible, noting that open congressional seats don’t come around very often.

With no elected experience and no history with party regulars, Madia certainly has an uphill climb. He’s seeking to break into politics in a congressional race that is likely to be among the most competitive in the country – and a race that already has an excellent DFL candidate. There is no question that he is an underdog in this race.

“The three issues that I care about most and that form the basis for my campaign are: 1) Ending the Iraq War without leaving behind a catastrophe; 2) Balancing our budget and returning to “pay as you go” principles; and 3) Creating and implementing a comprehensive solution to address global warming. I also want to talk more generally about the direction of our country, and what kind of nation we want to be post 9/11. I don’t believe that we need to have torture chambers, Guantanamo Bay, secret prisons, and spying programs on American citizens in order to be secure. In fact, I think that when we do those things, we tear at the fabric of our country” – said Madia. [Link]

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Will "Clergy Response Teams" be inclusive enough?

Louisiana’s local news station KSLA had a rather intriguing headline last week. In a television news report they made the claim that the Department of Homeland Security is currently training members of local clergies to help out is some capacity should the Executive Branch ever declare Martial Law within the United States:

Could martial law ever become a reality in America? Some fear any nuclear, biological or chemical attack on U.S. soil might trigger just that. KSLA News 12 has discovered that the clergy would help the government with potentially their biggest problem: Us

If martial law were enacted here at home, like depicted in the movie “The Siege”, easing public fears and quelling dissent would be critical. And that’s exactly what the ‘Clergy Response Team’ helped accomplish in the wake of Katrina.

Dr. Durell Tuberville serves as chaplain for the Shreveport Fire Department and the Caddo Sheriff’s Office. Tuberville said of the clergy team’s mission, “the primary thing that we say to anybody is, ‘let’s cooperate and get this thing over with and then we’ll settle the differences once the crisis is over.’”

Such clergy response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes of the public on the other. “In a lot of cases, these clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they’re helping to diffuse that situation,” assured Sandy Davis. He serves as the director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13. Dr. Tuberville elaborated, “because the government’s established by the Lord, you know. And, that’s what we believe in the Christian faith. That’s what’s stated in the scripture…” [Link]

It should be noted that KSLA was just the latest to reveal information/rumors about this program. A few other websites on the internet (of varying authority and reliability) mention other details:

A whistleblower who was secretly enrolled into the program told us that the feds were clandestinely recruiting religious leaders to help implement Homeland Security directives in anticipation of a potential bio-terrorist attack, any natural disaster or a nationally declared emergency… It was stressed that the Pastors needed to preach subservience to the authorities ahead of time in preparation for the round-ups and to make it clear to the congregation that “this is for their own good.”

Pastors were told that they would be backed up by law enforcement in controlling uncooperative individuals and that they would even lead SWAT teams in attempting to quell resistance. [Link]

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Rainbow Six

On Friday, CNN carried an alarmist headline that read, “Sources: U.S. assessing Pakistan nukes if Musharraf falls.” The implication here is that Musharraf’s grip on power is beginning to wane and is cause for concern all around. From the article:

U.S. military intelligence officials are urgently assessing how secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be in the event President Gen. Pervez Musharraf were replaced as the nation’s leader, CNN has learned…

Three U.S. sources have independently confirmed details of the intelligence review to CNN but would not allow their names to be used because of the sensitivity of the matter…

The current review is a result of recent developments in that country, including the prospect that Musharraf could still declare a national emergency that would give him sweeping powers…

The United States has full knowledge about the location of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, according to the U.S. assessment.

But the key questions, officials say, are what would happen and who would control the weapons in the hours after any change in government in case Musharraf were killed or overthrown. [Link]

Although this sounds like an escalation or something truly new and fantastic, it’s not. In the month following Sept. 11th, 2001, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker wrote a provocative article titled “Watching the Warheads.” In THAT article there were many more revealing details (if his sources were reliable) than are revealed in this newest blurb by CNN.

… an élite Pentagon undercover unit–trained to slip into foreign countries and find suspected nuclear weapons, and disarm them if necessary–has explored plans for an operation inside Pakistan….

…operating under Pentagon control with C.I.A. assistance, whose mission it is to destroy nuclear facilities, past and present government officials told me. “They’re good,” one American said. “If they screw up, they die. They’ve had good success in proving the negative”–that is, in determining that suspected facilities were not nuclear-related…

The American team is apparently getting help from Israel’s most successful special-operations unit, the storied Sayeret Matkal, also known as Unit 262, a deep-penetration unit that has been involved in assassinations, the theft of foreign signals-intelligence materials, and the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry

A senior military officer, after confirming that intense planning for the possible “exfiltration” of Pakistani warheads was under way, said that he had been concerned not about a military coup but about a localized insurrection by a clique of I.S.I. officers in the field who had access to a nuclear storage facility. “The Pakistanis have just as much of a vested interest as we do in making sure that that stuff is looked after, because if they”–I.S.I. dissidents–”throw one at India, they’re all cooked meat…”

Intelligence officials told me they believe that, in case of an imminent threat, the Indian military’s special commando unit is preparing to make its own move on the Pakistani arsenal. [Link]

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Realpolitik with Burma

While I do not hold a naive and idealistic view of the Indian government, I was still saddened to recently hear about the extent to which the GOI has gotten into bed with the odious dictators of Burma. Is this really much different from US-Pakistani relations? Both are justified by realpolitik, national interest, and claims that the end justifies the means.

In this case, India is circumventing the EU arms embargo on Burma by selling them attack helicopters made from EU parts:

Last week, India sparked fresh cries of outrage from human rights groups when a report surfaced saying that it plans to sell an unknown number of sophisticated Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) to Burma (also known as Myanmar).

According to a report by Amnesty International and other international organizations, the helicopters should be covered by the embargo because they are made with components from at least six EU countries and the United States… the Advanced Light Helicopters include rocket launchers from Belgium, engines from France, brake systems from Italy, fuel tanks and gearboxes from Britain. [Link]

Nor is it the first time – India has made several weapons sales to Burma in the last few years. [Note - India has neither confirmed nor denied the helicopter sale] The Burmese government is the kind of government that is perfectly willing to attack and kill its own civilians to maintain its grip on power, so selling weapons to the Burmese junta is serious business.

What does India get from this? Just like the USA, India arms and supports dictators so they can help India with its security problems:

India says it needs Burma’s help. There are at least 20,000 guerrillas from five major militant groups in India’s northeast – all fighting the Indian government for sovereignty or independence – who have training camps in the dense jungles of Sagaing in northern Burma. New Delhi has been deliberating with Yangon over plans for a military offensive against such groups.

Counterinsurgency operations in India’s northeast, says an official from India’s Ministry of Defense under conditions of anonymity, cannot succeed unless neighboring countries refrain from supporting the separatist groups based on their territories. [Link]

And of course, trade in general between India and Burma is increasing, as is Indian investment in Burmese gas even though the Burmese government is notorious for using forced labor when building pipelines and other infrastructure. Continue reading