Wednesday, January 14, 2009



Despite differences over strategies and tactics in the fight against global jihadi terrorism, there is a convergence of views between theoutgoing administration of President George Bush and the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama as to what should bethe ultimate objective of the US war against global terrorism.

2. They are both agreed that the ultimate objective should be to prevent another 9/11 in the US homeland by Al Qaeda and an act ofcatastrophic terrorism involving either the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) material or devastating attacks on the criticalinfrastructure.

3. In their view, of all the terrorist organisations operating from the Pakistani territory, only Al Qaeda has the capability for launching another9/11 in the US homeland and for organising an act of catastrophic terrorism. Hence, the first priority of the Bush administration was to thewar against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, its ideological ally. This priority will continue under Obama too. During the election campaign,Obama's criticism of the policies of Bush was not because of the focus on the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but because of what helooked upon as the inadequacy of that focus as illustrated by the perceived failure of the Bush administration to have Osama bin Laden andhis No.2 Ayman Al-Zawahiri killed or captured and the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda in the Pakistani tribal belt destroyed.

4. He attributed the inadequacy of that focus and the failure of the Bush Administration to destroy or even seriously weaken Al Qaeda towhat he looked upon as the unnecessary US involvement in Iraq, which took resources and attention away from the war against Al Qaeda inthe Pakistan-Afghanistan region. According to him, the real threat to the US homeland comes from the Pakistan-Afghanistan region and notfrom Iraq and hence there should have been no diversion of the attention and resources from there. He said during the election campaign:"We are fighting on the wrong battlefield. The terrorists who attacked us and who continue to plot against us are resurgent in the hillsbetween Afghanistan and Pakistan. They should have been our focus then. They must be our focus now.” In a speech at the Wilson Centre inWashington DC on August 1,2007, he said: “When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won…The first step must be getting offthe wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

5.Anoher point on which there has been a convegence between the views of the two is over th importance of Pakistan in the war againstglobal terrorism. Both feel that the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban cannot be won without th co-operation of Pakistan, which,essentially means the Pakistani Army. Obama said during the campaign: "Success in Afghanistan requires action in Pakistan. While Pakistanhas made some contributions by bringing some al Qaeda operatives to justice, the Pakistani government has not done nearly enough to limitextremist activity in the country and to help stabilize Afghanistan. I have supported aid to Pakistan in the Senate and ... I would continuesubstantial military aid if Pakistan takes action to root out the terrorists." He also said when Pervez Musharraf was still the President: “If wehave actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will. I firmly believe that if we know thewhereabouts of bin Laden and his deputies and we have exhausted all other options, we must take them out.”

6. His proclaimed determination to act unilaterally against high-value targets of Al Qaeda in Pakistani territory is no different from the policypursued by the Bush Administration in the last year of its presidency. Unmanned Predator aircraft of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)carried out over 30 strikes on suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistani territory during 2008 as against 10 in 2006 and2007. These strikes were carried out despite protests by the Pakistan Government and Army and resulted in the deaths of eight middle-levelArab operatives of Al Qaeda and Rashid Rauf, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, who was related by marriage to Maulana Masood Azhar, theAmir of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM).

7. Even if Obama wants the CIA to further step up its Predator attacks, their effectiveness would depend on a further improvement in theflow of human and technical intelligence. Obama has avoided specific pronouncements on his willingness to order land-based strikes on thesanctuaries of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistani territory. Under the Bush administration, the US special forces did try a land-basedstrike in South Waziristan in September,2008, which was not successful. It did not launch any more land-based strikes following a furore inPakistan. While the Asif Ali Zardari Government is avoiding any action to resist the Predator strikes despite its open condemnation of them,there seems to be a fear in Washington that if the US continues to undertake land-based strikes, public pressure could force the PakistanGovernment and the Army to resist them resulting in an undesirable confrontation between the armies of the two countries.

8. Obama is likely to face the same dilemma as Bush faced. The sporadic successes of the Predator strikes alone will not be able toeffectively destroy the terrorist infrastructure of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistani territory. To be effective, land-based strikes wouldalso be necessary. However, the political consequences of repeated land-based strikes would be unpredictable. There is alreadyconsiderable anger in the tribal belt against the Pakisan army for co-operating----even half-heartedly--- with the US in its war against AlQaeda and the Taliban. How to make up for this unsatisfactory co-operation by the Pakistan Army by stepping up unilateral US covertactions in the Pakistani territory without adding to the public anger against the Zardari Government? That is a question to which theadvisers of Bush were not able to come up with a satisfactory answer. Even the advisers of Obama do not seem to have an answer to this sofar.

9. A recommendation of Gen.David Petraeus, the Commander of the US Central Command, to induct another 30,000 US troops intoAfghanistan in the coming months to counter the activities of the Taliban has already been approved by Bush. This decision has the supportof Obama. But, more troops alone to step up the operations against the Afghan Taliban in Afghan territory would not serve the purposeunless accompanied by action to choke the supplies of men and material from the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Pakistaniterritory and the flow of funds from the once again flourishing heroin trade in Afghanistan.

10. No terrorist organisation in Pakistan can exist without State complicity if not sponsorship, sanctuaries and funds. Not only Al Qaeda andthe Taliban, but also the largely Punjabi terrorist organisations of Pakistan operating against India in Indian territory enjoy these threeessential elements of survival in Pakistan.A ground reality not realised in Washington DC is that all the jihadi terrorist organisations basedin Pakistan make available to each other the use of their hide-outs, sanctuaries and training centres. One recently saw the instance ofRashid Rauf of the JEM being killed in a Predator strike on an Al Qaeda hide-out. There have been reports in the Pakistan media of twoPunjabi terrorists belonging to what they have described as the Punjabi Taliban being killed in a Predator attack on an Al Qaeda vehicle inSouth Waziristan on January 1,2009. The Predator strike targeted and killed Osama al-Kini alias Fahid Mohammad Ally Masalam, describedas responsible for Al Qaeda operations in Pakistan including the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on September 21,2008, and hisNo. 2 Sheik Ahmed Salim Swedan. Both were Kenyan nationals. In addition to the two of them, the Predator strike also reportedly killed twomembers of the JEM, who were also in the same vehicle. One would recall that in March,2002, Abu Zubaidah, the Palestinian member of AlQaeda, was caught in a hide-out of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab.

11. From such instances, it should be clear that one cannot make a distinction between sanctuaries of Al Qaeda, those of the Taliban andthose of the anti-India organisations. All sanctuaries have to be attacked and destroyed irrespective of to which organisation theybelonged. The Bush Administration was not prepared to follow such a clear-cut policy and tried to make an operational distinction betweenanti-US terrorism and anti-Indian terrorism. Pakistan fully exploited this ambivalence.

12. From the various statements of Obama and his advisers, there is not much reason for India to hope that this ambivalence woulddisappear under him. The double standards vis--vis anti-US and anti-India terrorism, which have been the defining characteristics of UScounter-terrorism policies since 1981, will continue to come to the rescue of Pakistan. It would be futile for India to expect any majorchange under Obama. We should deal with the terrorism against our nationals and interests emanating from Pakistani territory in our ownway, through our own means and on our own terms. So far as India's fight against terrorism is concerned, the advent of Obama as the nextPresident of the US is not going to make any major difference.

13. At the same time, even if he succeeds in damaging if not destroying the capabilities of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, India will have somebeneficial fall-out, but it will not be the end of Pakistani use of terrorism against India. We should wish him well and help him in whateverway we can professionally without accepting any political interference by the US in matters such as Jammu & Kashmir and India's presencein Afghanistan. We should not accept any US overlordship in the region under the pretext of a regional approach to the problem ofterrorism.(15-1-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )



After the attack on the Indian Parliament House by a joint team of terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and theJaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) on December 13,2001, there was a clamour in the New Delhi-based strategic community for military strikesagainst Pakistan.A former chief of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), who held me in some esteem, had called me to Delhi for adiscussion on the options before India. I told him that it would be totally unwise for India to launch military strikes on Pakistan. . After adiscussion lasting more than an hour, he asked me to put down my thoughts in writing and send it to him after I returned to Chennai. I did so.He never told me what he did with my paper. I did not ask him either. I took his permission and sent the paper to the South Asia AnalysisGroup (SAAG), New Delhi, who were kind enough to carry it on their web site on December 27,2001, at

2. I take the liberty of reproducing that article below without any change. I still largely stand by what I stated in that article. (14-1-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )


by B.Raman

Direct military action against a State-sponsor of terrorism waging a proxy war against us by using terrorism through surrogates as alow-cost weapon without the direct involvement of its Armed Forces would be counter-productive and messy.

While there could be no doubt about India's ultimate success in a military conflict, the final cost of the conflict would further retard India'seconomic development.

Direct military action should be a weapon of last resort when there is no other way of protecting our unity and territorial integrity. We arefar, far away from such a desperate situation.

Despite its strong anti-Castro rhetoric, the US has generally avoided any direct military action against Cuba which it has, in the past,accused of sponsorship of terrorism or insurgency in Latin America because of concerns that such action could lead to a messy situationat its door step. What it can afford to do to far-away Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan, it cannot to its across-the-sea neighbour.

Avoidance of direct military action against Pakistan is dictated by its being our next-door neighbour, the suspected presence of irrationalelements in its military, intelligence and scientific establishment and the concerns of the international community over the nuclear factor. India has a common interest with the rest of the world in ensuring that Pakistan's nuclear and missile arsenal does not fall into the hands ofirrational elements.

Public and political opinion should refrain from creating a situation similar to the one created before 1962 when the clamour for a macho response to China's nibbling at our territory led to unwise decisions.

To talk of limited military action in the form of hot pursuit of terrorists, hit and run raids and air strikes on their training camps in Pakistani territory is to exhibit a surprising and worrisome ignorance of ground realities and a lack of understanding of a proxy war despite India beinga victim of it for nearly two decades now.

Legally, India has the right of hot pursuit, but it works only when armed groups indulge in hit and run raids from rear bases in a foreignterritory across the border. It cannot be used against suicide squads of foreign mercenaries operating from safe sanctuaries in our territoryprovided by alienated elements in our own population.

Destruction of training camps would be a meaningless exercise because terrorists do not have a permanent training infrastructure likeKhadakvasla or Dehra Dun or West Point. Their infrastructures are improvised and shifting and come into life whenever they manage to get asufficient number of recruits for training.

If air strikes and cross-border raids on training camps and safe havens could effectively end terrorism, Israel should be free offoreign-sponsored terrorism today. The fact that even after 30 years of a macho counter-terrorism policy, Israeli blood continues to flowshould show the ineffectiveness of its strategy.

The US bombing of the training camps in Afghanistan in August 1998 did not prevent the attack on a US naval ship in Aden in October, 2000or the terrorist strikes of September 11,2001, in the US.

When terrorism is used by a State as a low-cost weapon to achieve its strategic objective, what works against it is the ability and thedetermination of the victim State to hurt the interests of the State-sponsor in order to make it a high-cost weapon for the wielder.

State-sponsored terrorism withers away when the villain State is made to realise that it will have to pay a heavy price for its sponsorship. The US bombing of Libya in 1986 and its economic sanctions against it produced more enduring results than its bombing of the trainingcamps in Afghanistan in 1998 because it hit at the vital interests of the State-sponsor (Libya); whereas in Afghanistan, it hit only at thetraining camps without hurting the Taliban-run State.

If the current "war" against terrorism produces enduring results, it would be more due to the severe damages inflicted by the US on theTaliban State and its overthrow.

The ideologically-oriented terrorist groups of West Europe, including many inspired by Carlos, withered away after the collapse of EastGermany, the erstwhile USSR and Yugoslavia and the US pressure against Syria, Yemen and Sudan deprived them of any State-sponsor.

Egypt was able to control the activities of the Al Gama Al Islamiya and other similar groups only after the US pressure on the Sudan deprivedthem of sustenance from the Sudanese State.

If Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir is not abating, it is partly because of the reluctance of the US to exercise similarpressure on it and partly because of our unwillingness and inability to make the State of Pakistan pay a price for its sponsorship. When apuppeteer uses puppets to hurt you, you have to disable the puppeteer; otherwise, the more the puppets you destroy the more the numberthat will crop up.

Other options, which need to be tried first before even contemplating the direct military option, are political, economic and non-militarycovert actions. The political option relates to intensifying our pressure on the international community in general and the US in particular toact against Pakistan. The US is as opposed now as it was in the past to calling Pakistan to order, but one could see from the US media thatgrowing sections of public opinion there do not take as benign a view of Islamabad as the Administration does. One must take advantage of this wind of change.

India has a much stronger case against Pakistan than the US has had against the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. We have had difficulty in sellingour case because of the USA's strategic interest in Pakistan and the nostalgic links of the military-intelligence establishments of the twocountries. Loyalty to USA's allies, past and present, has been a recurring theme in President Bush's pronouncements before and after hiselection.

It would, therefore, be unrealistic to expect the US to come down on Pakistan heavily. We cannot expect more than proforma admonitionsaddressed to Pervez Musharraf. However, this should not be an argument for not keeping up our diplomatic pressure to confine Pakistan tothe dog house.

The junta will not give in as easily to US pressure vis-a-vis India as it did apropos Afghanistan. In its perception, the proxy war has brought itvery close to its objective of a change of status quo in J & K. It thinks that if it relents in the proxy war in response to US pressure, it maynot get for decades a similar opportunity to change the status quo. In its eyes, keeping the Indian security forces preoccupied with internalsecurity duties is also meant to neutralise the quantitative and qualitative advantage enjoyed by the Indian military.

The only way, short of a military conflict, of making it relent in its proxy war is by making the perceived low-cost weapon into a high-cost one. Economic warfare, through overt and covert means, could be one way of doing this. However, such economic warfare would have produced better results before September 11, but today its cash flow position has improved with its foreign exchange reserves more than tripling in three months. And yet, sustained economic warfare could neutralise the temporary reprieve which the Pakistani economy has gained.

Political, diplomatic and economic actions by themselves would not make the junta relent unless simultaneously accompanied byhard-hitting covert actions directed at Pakistan's neurologic spots carefully identified. A covert action is defined as a clandestine anddeniable action, armed or unarmed, not involving the use of the Armed Forces, which a State undertakes in a situation where the use of theconventional diplomatic or military option is considered as not feasible or advisable.

Successful covert actions demand the required professional capability in the intelligence community, objective allies in the targetted territory and consistency on the part of the political leadership in their implementation.
Consistency in our policy towards Pakistan has not been a hallmark of our national security management. It must be said to the credit of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment that it has exhibited remarkable consistency in its hatred of India and in its urge to hurt us wherever and whenever it can.

Our policy of "kabi garam, kabi naram" (sometimes hard, sometimes soft) creates confusion and uncertainty in the minds of our own securitybureacracy and makes our objective allies across the border hesitant to co-operate with us in covert actions.

The need of the hour is a counter proxy war doctrine incorporating its political, diplomatic, economic and covert components and itsimplementation in a determined and consistent manner. The results would not come dramatically, but slowly and almost imperceptibly.