Global News Journal

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Indian engagement in Afghanistan, a blessing or a headache

October 9, 2009

U.S. General Stanley McChrystal in his assessment of the war in Afghanistan last month only briefly touched upon the growing role of India, but his words were blunt and unsettling for India. In the light of Thursday's attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that left 17 people dead, McChrsytal's comments may yet turn out to be prescient.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan: Getting Waziristan right this time

October 6, 2009

U.S. defence officials, in a ringing vote of confidence, said over the weekend that Pakistan had the forces and equipment to launch a long-awaited ground offensive in South Waziristan. It could mount this assault without seeking more reinforcements, a U.S. official said, according to this Reuters report. Yet Pakistan had cited in recent months shortages of helicopters, armoured vehicles and precision weapons in putting off a Waziristan assault.So what has changed? Has the United States,  desperate to turn around a faltering war in Afghanistan, got ahead of itself in nudging Pakistan toward "the mother-of-all battles"? Some people are asking if the Pakistan Army is really ready to start what must be its bigest test yet since the militants turned on the Pakistani state. If the idea is to go in and linflict casualties on the Taliban in the hope of killing senior leaders, then it will be another punitive strike for which the force levels may well be adequate.But if the Pakistan Army plans to go into the Mehsud strongholds and occupy the region then the numbers are a bit worrying, says Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.  A Pakistan Army spokesman has said that  two divisions, or up to 28,000 soldiers, are in place to take on an estimated 10,000 hard-core Taliban. But Roggio says Waliur Rehman Mehsud, who heads the Mehsud Taliban forces in Waziristan, (Hakimullah Mehsud who surfaced at the weekend is the overall head of the Pakistani Taliban) is estimated to command anything between 10,000 to 30,000 forces.  If the army were to wage a full-scale counter-insurgency they and the Frontier Corps "would need to throw multiple divisions against a Taliban force of this size," he argues. And then there is the Haqqani network, as well as a sizeable contingent of Uzbek and other non-Pakistani fighters in the area. They may well join the fight, according to the Dawn newspaper.Pakistani expert Imtiaz Gul, who heads the  Independent Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, calls Waziristan a "blackhole" for security and intelligence forces. At least 800 pro-government tribal elders and intelligence officials have lost their lives to Taliban and al Qaeda assassins in Waziristan and adjacent tribal areas, most of them in the last four years, eroding Pakistani intelligence from the region and in turn forcing a greater reliance on U.S. drone surveillance and strikes, he says in a piece for the AFPAK channel for Foreign Policy.Gul reckons one of the prime objectives of the impending military assault would be to take out the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan entrenched there and whose powerful leader Tahir Yuldashev is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.Some others are saying there is actually no public estimate of the total number of Waziri fighters, and that the Pakistan Army might end up in a 1:1 ratio with the militants, which is far too low to sustain a counter-insurgency campaign, let alone win it. You can't help recalling again the oft-quoted words of Lord Curzon, the turn-of-the-century British Viceroy of India, who said : "No patchwork scheme will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steamroller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine."And even if Pakistan were willing to run the steamroller it may just not be avaialble to it, not yet at least.Sameer Lalwani in a study for the New America Foundation says that the Pakistan Army is already overstretched with the Swat operation and lacks the capacity to  expand the fight. The study provides a fairly detailed assessment of Pakistani capabilities for a counter-insurgency campaign focussing on  1) the nature of the insurgency, including its strength, capabilities, tactics, and strategic objectives; 2) the terrain challenges posed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and 3) current and potential Pakistani potential military capabilites.  Here is the PDF of the full report.In short, Lalwani argues that 370,000 and 430,000 more troops would be needed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas  and the North West Frontier Province region to meet the minimum force-to-population ratios prescribed by standard counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine, much higher than current Pakistani deployments of 150,000, and even this is no assurance of success given adverse conditions.It is too big for the army alone, and  would need the calling up of reserves and also greater reliance on the poorly-equipped Frontier Corps. And the Pakistan Army would resist redeployment of more forces from the Indian border because for it, the Indians remain an enduring threat.And as Roggio asks is the state ready for the blow back from a full-scale assault? The militants have repeatedly attacked cities each time they have come under pressure. On Monday, a suicide bomber breached the tightly guarded office of the United Nations World Food Programme in a residential part of Islamabad, killing five people.[Photographs of Hakimullah Mehsud and paramilitary soldiers] The Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps would need to throw multiple divisions against a Taliban force of this size

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Talk of Waziristan offensive picks up in Pakistan

October 2, 2009

According to Dawn newspaper, the Pakistan Army is poised to launch a major military operation in South Waziristan, stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India, Pakistan and Afghanistan: the impossible triangle

September 25, 2009

A single paragraph in General Stanley McChrystal's leaked assessment of the war in Afghanistan has generated much interest, particularly in Pakistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: the changing nature of conflict

September 24, 2009

Early last year a group of Indian and Pakistan retired generals and strategic experts sat down for a war-gaming exercise in Washington. The question, predictably enough, was at what point during a conventional war, would the generals in Rawalpindi GDQ reach for the nuclear trigger.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The missile shield and the “grand bargain” on Afghanistan and Pakistan

September 17, 2009

Back in 2008, even before Barack Obama was elected, Washington pundits were urging him to adopt a new regional approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan involving Russia, India, China, Saudi Arabia and even Iran. The basic argument was that more troops alone would not solve the problems, and that the new U.S administration needed to subsume other foreign policy goals to the interests of winning a regional consensus on stabilising Afghanistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: looking beyond the rhetoric

September 5, 2009

With so much noise around these days in the relationship between India and Pakistan it is hard to make out a clear trend.  Politicians and national media in both countries have reverted to trading accusations, whether it be about their nuclear arsenals, Pakistani action against Islamist militants blamed for last year's Mumbai attacks or alleged violations of a ceasefire on the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Scan the headlines on a Google news search on India and Pakistan and you get the impression of a relationship fraught beyond repair.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistani Taliban’s new chief:more ambitious, more ruthless?

August 30, 2009

The first big suicide bombing in Pakistan this week since the slaying of Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in a U.S.-missile strike had a particularly nasty edge to it.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan, still the new Vietnam ?

August 24, 2009

Try hard as you can, there doesn't seem to be any escaping from comparing America's eight-year war in Afghanistan to the one it fought in Vietnam.

Who is funding the Afghan Taliban? You don’t want to know

August 13, 2009

U.S. soldiers (L) and an Afghan policeman keep watch near a building which is held by the Taliban in Logar, south of Kabul August 10, 2009. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood