Tacstrat: What makes Drones illegal

November 19, 2012

Tacstrat Analysis

The United States has been conducting drone attacks in the Northern ‘terrorist infested’ areas of Pakistan since 2004. Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles controlled by the CIA’s Special Activities Division. Although drone attacks started during George W Bush’s second term, with the consent of Pakistani government and military, they have substantially increased since President Obama joined office. The number of militant versus civilian casualties in these attacks varies. While the Pakistani government insists that more than 90% of the casualties are not targeted terrorists, Western media continues to push all the victims under ‘suspected militants’ category. The New American Foundation has released statistics since 2004. The uncertainty of the number of casualties is appalling.


Number of Attacks

Number of Casualties

Minimum Maximum




























While countless reports have been published proving the counter-productivity of the “let’s go get ‘em” counterterrorism strategies, the ethical dimension of this debate has taken another turn altogether. And hence the issues encircling the drone debate need to be addressed layer by layer.

Recently drone talk has become quite common in Pakistan. Opposition parties have taken up the issue and popular cricketer turned politician Imran Khan, a well respected philanthropist, has used his political party to raise tremendous amount of awareness of the injustice of drone warfare. With the help of his ex-wife Jemima Khan, Khan’s party has decided to take the matter to the International Criminal Court with the release of a documentary Jemima is working on. This mass level awareness about the issue has gone global. The issue has been taken up by Western media and one of the biggest milestones for the anti-drone movement was Noam Chomsky’s decision to join the club. Noam Chomsky, perhaps the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, is also one of the biggest critics of Liberalism and American foreign policy.

But what is the problem with the US government resorting to a method of killing terrorists that minimizes American casualties?

First of all Pakistan government claims that drone attacks are taking place against Pakistan’s consent. When exactly Pervez Musharraf sanctioned the US to use Pakistani airspace to conduct these attacks in the Northern belt, and who signed what contract if any remains of the many mysteries in Pakistan’s political history. The fact is nobody knows. When this issue was taken up and Pakistan’s PPP government under media and civilian pressure claimed their sovereignty was being compromised, the American government mentioned some fax that we have yet to see. But then again, confidentiality of evidence is vital because otherwise lives would be at stake. However drone attacks were a regular phenomenon even when the PPP took office. So why was it only after opposition parties and the media took up the issue that the government realized something had hit them?

Secondly, drone attacks are illegal because the suspected criminals/militants/terrorists are not given a chance in court. So this is a more theoretical dimension of the debate. Say, even if only 10% of the victims were militants, according to international norms of criminal justice, just killing them off without a trial is a crime. What exactly are those militants guilty of?

Thirdly, what is that final line between a militant who poses a threat to national security and a civilian? Have the terrorism busters across the globe defined exactly who is a trouble maker and why?

For a comparison with other counter-terrorism used recently, we can take a look at the successful military operation in Swat in 2007. The Pakistan Army sent in troops to the district of Swat to confront the locally elected Taliban forces who were forcefully imposing their version of Sharia on the people. The main incentive for the locals to vote the Taliban in was an efficient justice system, but the Taliban’s promises of justice came with ugly laws to suffocate the Swati society completely. The Pakistan army after tough battle with the Taliban and military and civilian casualties was successfully able to drive the Taliban out. Even though two years later Taliban presence became a reality the government realized was impossible to ignore, and a mutual compromise was reached, the operation from the Pakistani perspective was a success because its targets were placed with more precision.

The militants killed in the military operations were obviously not given the luxury of a trial. They however were given the benefit of confrontation. The Pakistan Army announced the operation, allowed those who claimed to side with the establishment a chance to leave with their belongings and loved ones. The rest chose to fight. They were not mere civilians, or suspected militants at best. Their crime at that point was not mere suspicion of conspiracy or involvement in ambiguous violence or terrorism. Rather they saw themselves as adversaries of the Pakistani government on an equal footing and put up a fight.

On the other hand, drone attacks are premised on the assumption that these areas are safe havens of terrorists. Ground spies leak information that is used to conveniently finish off the suspects. Unsuspecting, busy with their regular errands and out of nowhere they are turned to dust within seconds. All it takes is a remote control. Like a video game, exactly like a video game. What is more disturbing is the lack of accurate statistics. The Pakistan government and the US are not on the same page. Not on the total number of casualties, not on the number of militants, not on the number of affected, nor to what degree. Children have lost lives. Women have often been targeted. Interviews have shown that the CIA’s method to decide location of strikes is pretty much random.

Not only are more civilians being affected, this brutal method of killing has only increased hatred towards the United States, hence increasing militant recruitment. Are drone attacks, escalating militants ranks, killing off more innocent people than suspected, worth pursuing? CIA’s brutal double tap technique has earned the US immense criticism. While since 2010 the number of attacks has decreased, the number of casualties has increased because a strike is followed by missile fires which kill the people who have collected to help survivors. This method ensures that the United States has crossed all limits to violate human rights and bow the seeds of hatred to people who might even be against the militants before their loved ones become victims of such brutality. Is this the Peace our allies are fighting for?

It is bizarre how the Pakistani government left the issue as soon as a certain fax was mentioned. While opposition parties and human rights groups worldwide are chanting in harmony against these killing devices, it seems bizarre that the International Court of Justice needs to wait for a documentary to take notice of the matter.

Taseer asks world to learn from Pak success in combating terrorism

May 19, 2010

WASHINGTON, May 18 (APP) - Pakistan on Tuesday rejected suggestions of the United States pressure on it to “do more” in fighting militants, with Governor of Punjab province asserting that instead the world should learn from Islamabad’s successful anti-terror campaigns. Governor Salman Taseer said Pakistan wants a relationship based on mutual respect with the United States and reiterated that Pakistani nation is fighting its own war against militants.

“We have shown the way we can handle it much better,” Taseer said in a talk at the Middle East Institute, citing military campaigns in Swat and tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Taseer was commenting on reports that National Security Advisor James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta are in Islamabad to press Pakistan to “do more.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Most Afghans optimistic about the future, poll finds

January 12, 2010

By Katherine Tiedemann

Event notice: New America Foundation counterterrorism fellow Brian Fishman will be speaking today at 2:30pm in Washington, DC on “Making the Next Bin Laden.” Details here .

At the polls

Newly released annual polling in Afghanistan conducted in the country’s 34 provinces in December 2009 from BBC/ABC/ARD suggests that Afghans are more optimistic about the future; 70 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction, up from 40 percent a year ago (BBC). 83 percent of those surveyed have a favorable opinion of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, while the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan are supported by 68 percent of Afghans and the Taliban by 10 percent; 72 percent of Afghans support the more than 30,000 additional U.S. and NATO troops being sent to the country. The full polling results are available here (BBC-pdf).

Karzai submitted a second round of picks for his cabinet on Saturday, after the Afghan Parliament roundly rejected 17 of his 24 original choices, though lawmakers indicated that Karzai faces another uphill battle in getting his choices confirmed as the new nominees have been criticized for lacking necessary credentials, being too close to warlords, or were selected for supporting Karzai (AP, BBC, Globe and Mail, LAT, NYT). Three women were included, after the only woman nominated in the first round was rejected; a full list is available here (AP).


A defense correspondent for the Sunday Mirror tabloid newspaper has become the first British reporter to die covering the war in Afghanistan after his vehicle drove over a roadside bomb on Saturday in Helmand province during a patrol with U.S. Marines (AFP, Reuters, NYT, AP, Guardian, Telegraph, Mirror, AJE, BBC, WSJ). Rupert Hamer is the second Western journalist to be killed in Afghanistan in ten days; Canadian reporter Michelle Lang of the Calgary Herald died in neighboring Kandahar province from a roadside bomb on December 30.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed earlier today while fighting insurgent forces in volatile southern Afghanistan, bringing the total number of U.S. troops killed in the country in 2010 to 10 (AP, AFP, Pajhwok). NATO forces seized more than 5,300 pounds of processed opium in a search of a “suspicious vehicle” in Kandahar on Friday, and the commander of all Marines in southern Afghanistan Brigadier General Larry Nicholson told the AP that Marjah, just west of the provincial capital of Helmand province, is “where we’re going next” to fight the Taliban (AFP, AP).

Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal said in an interview with ABC that the additional U.S. troops being sent to the country has “changed the way we operate” and cautioned that although “we’ve made progress, it’s not a completed mission” (ABC, AP).

Media appearances

The Jordanian doctor and al Qaeda double agent believed to be behind the Dec. 30 suicide attack at a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, which killed seven CIA operatives and a Jordanian spy, appeared in a video aired over the weekend alongside Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, underlining the connections between the Taliban and al Qaeda (CNN, Aaj, NYT, McClatchy, BBC, Wash Post). Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi was shown vowing revenge for Hakimullah’s predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed by a U.S.-operated drone in August 2009.

The Washington Post has today’s must-read describing how al-Balawi detonated his explosives “just before” he was going to be searched at Forward Operating Base Chapman (Wash Post). And on Sunday, CIA director Leon Panetta protested public commentary about the attack “suggesting that those who gave their lives somehow brought it upon themselves because of “poor tradecraft.” That’s like saying Marines who die in a firefight brought it upon themselves because they have poor war-fighting skills” (Wash Post).

The Afghan government agreed on Saturday to assume responsibility for the management of the U.S.-run military prison at Bagram air base, which houses more than 700 detainees captured by U.S. forces (NYT, AJE, AP). Initially, the Afghan Ministry of Defense will run Bagram, and eventually transition control to the Ministry of Justice, possibly by the end of year.

Drone watching

Christopher Drew has another fascinating read today describing the deluge of data generated by U.S.-operated drones in Afghanistan and Iraq, writing that Air Force drones gathered 24 years’ worth of video over the two countries last year, three times as much as in 2007 (NYT). And a handful of suspected militants were killed by the sixth reported drone strike in Pakistan this year in the Ismail Khel village in the Datta Khel region of North Waziristan on Saturday (AP, AFP, CNN, Geo, Times of India). Another reported drone strike targeted the town of Tappi in North Waziristan on Friday (AFP, AP, CNN, Geo).

Dozens of people have been killed in a wave of targeted attacks since the beginning of the year in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, among rival political groups that “some say is aimed at destabilizing the country’s ruling coalition” (AP, Dawn, Daily Times). There were 86 targeted killings in Karachi in 2008, and 152 in 2009.

Pakistani police have detained five female would-be suicide bombers in Islamabad and the Swat Valley in Pakistan, and one of the girls told members of the media that she had been trained by Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in Swat (Pajhwok). And Sarah Kershaw reviews a “range of patterns” that has emerged from the study of the psychology of terrorism (NYT).

Barnes and Noble Kabul

The government of Denmark is funding the construction of three bookstores in Kabul that will have the capacity to store up to 15 million books (Pajhwok). The facilities are scheduled to be completed within a year.

CIA Determines Documents Were Fabricated

December 30, 2009

The Iranian Nuke Forgeries


U.S. intelligence has concluded that the document published recently by the Times of London, which purportedly describes an Iranian plan to do experiments on what the newspaper described as a “neutron initiator” for an atomic weapon, is a fabrication, according to a former Central Intelligence Agency official.

Philip Giraldi, who was a CIA counterterrorism official from 1976 to 1992, told me that intelligence sources say that the United States had nothing to do with forging the document, and that Israel is the primary suspect. The sources do not rule out a British role in the fabrication, however.

The Times of London story published Dec. 14 did not identify the source of the document. But it quoted “an Asian intelligence source” – a term some news media have used for Israeli intelligence officials – as confirming that his government believes Iran was working on a neutron initiator as recently as 2007.

The story of the purported Iranian document prompted a new round of expressions of U.S. and European support for tougher sanctions against Iran and reminders of Israel’s threats to attack Iranian nuclear programme targets if diplomacy fails.

U.S. news media reporting has left the impression that U.S. intelligence analysts have not made up their mind about the document’s authenticity, although it has been widely reported that they have now had a full year to assess the issue.

Giraldi’s intelligence sources did not reveal all the reasons that led analysts to conclude that the purported Iran document had been fabricated by a foreign intelligence agency. But their suspicions of fraud were prompted in part by the source of the story, according to Giraldi.

“The Rupert Murdoch chain has been used extensively to publish false intelligence from the Israelis and occasionally from the British government,” Giraldi said.

The Times is part of a Murdoch publishing empire that includes the Sunday Times, Fox News and the New York Post. All Murdoch-owned news media report on Iran with an aggressively pro-Israeli slant.

The document itself also had a number of red flags suggesting possible or likely fraud.

The subject of the two-page document which the Times published in English translation would be highly classified under any state’s security system. Yet there is no confidentiality marking on the document, as can be seen from the photograph of the Farsi-language original published by the Times.

The absence of security markings has been cited by the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as evidence that the “alleged studies” documents, which were supposedly purloined from an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons-related programme early in this decade, are forgeries.

The document also lacks any information identifying either the issuing office or the intended recipients. The document refers cryptically to “the Centre”, “the Institute”, “the Committee”, and the “neutron group”.

The document’s extreme vagueness about the institutions does not appear to match the concreteness of the plans, which call for hiring eight individuals for different tasks for very specific numbers of hours for a four-year time frame.

Including security markings and such identifying information in a document increases the likelihood of errors that would give the fraud away.

The absence of any date on the document also conflicts with the specificity of much of the information. The Times reported that unidentified “foreign intelligence agencies” had dated the document to early 2007, but gave no reason for that judgment.

An obvious motive for suggesting the early 2007 date is that it would discredit the U.S. intelligence community’s November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran had discontinued unidentified work on nuclear weapons and had not resumed it as of the time of the estimate.

Discrediting the NIE has been a major objective of the Israeli government for the past two years, and the British and French governments have supported the Israeli effort.

The biggest reason for suspecting that the document is a fraud is its obvious effort to suggest past Iranian experiments related to a neutron initiator. After proposing experiments on detecting pulsed neutrons, the document refers to “locations where such experiments used to be conducted”.

That reference plays to the widespread assumption, which has been embraced by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran had carried out experiments with Polonium-210 in the late 1980s, indicating an interest in neutron initiators. The IAEA referred in reports from 2004 through 2007 to its belief that the experiment with Polonium-210 had potential relevance to making “a neutron initiator in some designs of nuclear weapons”.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the terrorist organisation Mujahedeen-e Khalq, claimed in February 2005 that Iran’s research with Polonium-210 was continuing and that it was now close to producing a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon.

Sanger and Broad were so convinced that the Polonium-210 experiments proved Iran’s interest in a neutron initiator that they referred in their story on the leaked document to both the IAEA reports on the experiments in the late 1980s and the claim by NCRI of continuing Iranian work on such a nuclear trigger.

What Sanger and Broad failed to report, however, is that the IAEA has acknowledged that it was mistaken in its earlier assessment that the Polonium-210 experiments were related to a neutron initiator.

After seeing the complete documentation on the original project, including complete copies of the reactor logbook for the entire period, the IAEA concluded in its Feb. 22, 2008 report that Iran’s explanations that the Polonium-210 project was fundamental research with the eventual aim of possible application to radio isotope batteries was “consistent with the Agency’s findings and with other information available to it”.

The IAEA report said the issue of Polonium-210 – and thus the earlier suspicion of an Iranian interest in using it as a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon – was now considered “no longer outstanding”.

New York Times reporters David Sanger and William J. Broad reported U.S. intelligence officials as saying the intelligence analysts “have yet to authenticate the document”. Sanger and Broad explained the failure to do so, however, as a result of excessive caution left over from the CIA’s having failed to brand as a fabrication the document purporting to show an Iraqi effort to buy uranium in Niger.

The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick dismissed the possibility that the document might be found to be fraudulent. “There is no way to establish the authenticity or original source of the document…,” wrote Warrick.

But the line that the intelligence community had authenticated it evidently reflected the Barack Obama administration’s desire to avoid undercutting a story that supports its efforts to get Russian and Chinese support for tougher sanctions against Iran.

This is not the first time that Giraldi has been tipped off by his intelligence sources on forged documents. Giraldi identified the individual or office responsible for creating the two most notorious forged documents in recent U.S. intelligence history.

In 2005, Giraldi identified Michael Ledeen, the extreme right-wing former consultant to the National Security Council and the Pentagon, as an author of the fabricated letter purporting to show Iraqi interest in purchasing uranium from Niger. That letter was used by the George W. Bush administration to bolster its false case that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons programme.

Giraldi also identified officials in the “Office of Special Plans” who worked under Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith as having forged a letter purportedly written by Hussein’s intelligence director, Tahir Jalail Habbush al-Tikriti, to Hussein himself referring to an Iraqi intelligence operation to arrange for an unidentified shipment from Niger.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.

Testing Afghanistan Assumptions

September 29, 2009

The lesson of Vietnam is don’t commit troops without a clear strategy.


In the coming weeks, President Barack Obama will make the most difficult choice a commander in chief can face: whether to send more troops into harm’s way.

The challenge of making the right decision was dramatized recently by the grim disclosure that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has warned that unless he gets more troops the eight-year war there “will likely result in failure.”

The general provided a bleak catalogue of misaligned military operations, a corrupt Afghan government, and an increasingly lethal insurgency. He wants more troops and civilians to execute a nation-building counterinsurgency strategy that he hopes will reverse the slide. He says success is still achievable. As the commander on the ground, Gen. McChrystal fulfilled his assignment from the president, producing a tightly reasoned blueprint for a complex and increasingly dangerous conflict.

Now, we in Congress have our own assignment: to test all of the underlying assumptions in Afghanistan and make sure they are the right ones before embarking on a new strategy.

For example, one assumption of the proposed counterinsurgency plan is that our troops and civilians will be working in partnership with a legitimate and reliable government in Afghanistan. After the deeply flawed presidential election last month, we must ask whether we can succeed if our partner is weak and viewed with deep suspicion by his own people.

We also need to know whether a full-blown counterinsurgency, with its increased footprint and inevitably higher casualties, is a fundamental part of our plans to go after al Qaeda and avoid destabilizing Pakistan. Could a far smaller, well-honed counterterrorism strategy work as well or better?

Some have argued that counterterrorism commandos and sophisticated surveillance might be effective at targeting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But critics contend that a counterterrorism campaign can succeed only as a component within a larger counterinsurgency.

If we increase our commitment, we might be able to develop “good enough governance” in Afghanistan, to quote the words Clare Lockhart (co-author of the insightful book “Fixing Failed States”) used at a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. But even that would not guarantee that we achieve another vital objective: avoiding the destabilization of neighboring Pakistan. Chaos there could put nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists.

The situation in Afghanistan has clearly changed since last March when the president unveiled his goal of defeating al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He and his advisers are exploring alternatives in light of the conditions on the ground and we should welcome the careful reassessment.

So far, the debate has focused on absolute numbers-how many U.S. and allied troops are required, how many Afghan soldiers and police do we need to train, how many more billions must we pour into that impoverished country? All the numbers are meaningless if the goal is ambiguous or the strategy is wrong.

Before we send more of our young men and women to this war, we need a fuller debate about what constitutes success in Afghanistan. We need a clearer understanding of what constitutes the right strategy to get us there. Ultimately, we need to understand, as Gen. Colin Powell was fond of asking, “What’s the exit strategy?” Or as Gen. David Petraeus asked of Iraq, “How does it end?”

Why? Because one of the lessons from Vietnam-applied in the first Gulf War and sadly forgotten for too long in Iraq-is that we should not commit troops to the battlefield without a clear understanding of what we expect them to accomplish, how long it will take, and how we maintain the consent of the American people. Otherwise, we risk bringing our troops home from a mission unachieved or poorly conceived.

Gen. McChrystal offers no timetable or exit strategy, beyond warning that the next 12 months are critical. I agree that time is running out and that troops are dying without a sustainable strategy for victory. But we cannot rush to judgment.

Mr. Obama promises not to send more troops to Afghanistan until he has absolute clarity on what the strategy will be. He is right to take the time he needs to define the mission. We should all follow his lead and debate all of the options.

It may be that Gen. McChrystal has provided the road map to victory. Or it may be that some other strategy would work better, with fewer risks. We can’t know until we test every assumption and examine every option.

At the end of the day, we need to answer every question to the best of our ability. Doing so will help develop the clarity required to establish goals and strategies that minimize risk to our troops, maintain regional stability, and protect our long-term national security.

Mr. Kerry, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

Clinton Calls for Greater Counterterrorism Cooperation Among U.S., India, Pakistan

June 19, 2009


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for greater counterterrorism cooperation among the United States, India and Pakistan and said she would visit India next month as the Obama administration moves to strengthen ties with New Delhi.

Speaking to the U.S.-India Business Council, Clinton welcomed this week’s meeting in Russia of the leaders of India and Pakistan. It was the first meeting between representatives of the two countries since last November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai that inflamed tensions between the nuclear armed rivals.

Clinton said she hoped the dialogue, along with Pakistan’s recent moves to target extremists, would boost security in South Asia and around the world.

She called the Mumbai attacks, which India has blamed on Pakistani extremists, “a reminder that terrorism represents a common threat to our nations and our people and we must meet it with a common strategy.”

“As part of that strategy, we should expand our broader security relationship and increase cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence sharing,” Clinton said.

She said the Obama administration was pleased by Tuesday’s meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President President Asif Ali Zardari but would allow the talks to run their own course.

“We welcome a dialogue between them,” Clinton said. “The pace, scope and character of that dialogue is something that Indian and Pakistani leaders will decide on their own terms and in their own time.”

“But,” she added, “as Pakistan now works to take on the challenge of terrorism in its own country, I am confident that India, as well as the United States, will support those efforts.”

A day after meeting Zardari in Russia, Singh said Wednesday that India is again ready to talk peace with Pakistan following a six-month freeze in the wake of the three-day siege in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

If Pakistan shows “courage, determination and statesmanship to take the high road to peace, India will meet it more than half the way,” Singh said.

But he also cautioned that relations between the neighbors remain “under considerable stress” and progress would be slow — with each step forward dependent on Islamabad’s willingness to take on anti-India militants.

A spokesman for Zardari said Tuesday’s meeting was “an important first step towards reopening formal dialogue.”

India has accused a Pakistan-based militant group of sending the teams of gunmen that attacked Mumbai and Pakistani officials have acknowledged the November attacks were partly plotted on their soil.

In her remarks, Clinton said global and regional security would be one of several main hubs on which the Obama administration would work with India to improve relations.

She said she would visit New Delhi in July to build on recent improvements in U.S.-Indian cooperation on civilian nuclear energy, work on developing clean energy technology and perhaps begin negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement.

The cost of war

June 19, 2009

Talat Masood

US think tanks, Congressional committees and State Department officials keep reminding us of the $12 billion of assistance that has been provided to Pakistan since 2001. Nearly 68 percent of this amount was reimbursement of costs incurred by Pakistan military in counterterrorism operations in FATA. And over $3 billion were provided for economic assistance and development. There is no doubt that deciding to join the war on terror led to substantial flow of US and international assistance from individual countries and donor agencies and did contribute for a while in bringing about macroeconomic stability and increased growth rates. But Pakistan soon realised that its fiscal and monetary policies that were heavily reliant on foreign assistance were not able to sustain growth.

What is however seldom realised internationally or by domestic audience that the cost of war that Pakistan had to bear and continues to bear is many times more that the aid that it has received so far. Institute of Public Policy of Beacon House National University in its recent annual report has come out with a comprehensive study of the state of economy in which the economic cost of the war on terror has been estimated since 2004-05 to be $31.4 billion, far in excess of the assistance of $1.7 billion annually.

With expanding insurgency in tribal belt and increasing acts of terrorism in Pakistan the direct and indirect costs are growing exponentially. In 2008 alone nearly 2,500 people lost their lives and about 5,000 suffered serious injuries. There has been massive damage to property running into billions of rupees. In addition the number of militants killed by our security forces during military operations also runs very high. And property damaged has been great. The costs have been increasing as the intensity and expanse of terrorist activity and insurgency is expanding.

The indirect costs include drop in investment, inability to proceed with development work, loss of production time, increase in employment and high cost of supporting displaced persons. As risk has increased so have insurance and other overheads costs.

Pakistan has suffered from flight of capital, closure of business and industrial activity and stock market has taken a deep down turn. Then there are opportunity costs as well. Pakistan’s fight against insurgents has political fallout and the nation is suffering psychologically. Political and social costs have been even higher. This conflict has ruptured the society and given rise to a deep polarisation between ethnic groups, widened the chasm between liberals and conservatives and between the religious and secular groups. It has pitched one religious sect against another and has also introduced an element of class warfare. This insurgency has also exposed the hypocritical side of the Islamic state as it could not effectively neutralise the militants at the ideological and ethical level and had to seek support of the military. This was despite the fact that the militants were presenting the most warped and distorted interpretation of Islam.

Clearly, the insurgency has challenged the invincibility of the armed forces. Although the army’s learning curve has been fairly good and it showing far better results in Swat and Malakand division under the guidance and leadership of General Kayani as compared to its performance during the Musharraf period. We have once again learnt that quality of commanders and soldiers is even more important as we fight in the valleys or do urban combat in Swat and other places. Recent experience has shown that political ownership is the key for mobilising public support in fighting insurgencies.

This insurgency has introduced new weapons and systems. The use of drones by US has been a force multiplier and given a new dimension in fighting insurgencies but has also brought in moral and political dilemmas. On the militants side the extensive use of FM broadcasts both as a command and a propaganda weapon has been a unique feature.

Despite the huge cost of war the results until recently were not very encouraging. It is since the Swat operation has started that there has been a qualitative change in the military operations and the militants are on the run.

The question on the mind of every one today is what is it we want to achieve in the end. Indeed we are fighting this war for our survival and our future and as much for the stability and security of the region and in a larger context for the globe. The overarching mission of our military apart from establishing the writ of the state in all those areas of tribal belt and Malakand division is the preservation of the constitution, democracy and our value system. The sacrifices our soldiers and officers and civilians are making are an investment to ensure a better future for our country for which we should be deeply indebted to them.

In fact Pakistan is a Force Maguire for the entire world and as it happens in Force Maguire regular commitments are replaced with extraordinary measures. This is the reason why the global community must come forward and facilitate.

In parallel, Pakistan should aim at increasing industrial and agricultural production and improve overall efficiency in governance and financial management to meet this extra burden. Seeking financial assistance from allies and international donor agencies to tide over immediate and short term contingency may be acceptable. But leaders who make it a habit and culture of seeking outside financial assistance lose respect and credibility both at home and abroad and find it difficult to motivate their people to fight the militants. What is more vital is to place the country on a war footing and a war economy and be as self reliant as possible.

The writer is a retired lieutenant-general. Email: talat@comsats.net.pk

Lone Wolf Lessons

June 5, 2009

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

At approximately 10:30 a.m. on June 1, as two young U.S. soldiers stood in front of the Army Navy Career Center in west Little Rock, Ark., a black pickup pulled in front of the office and the driver opened fire on the two, killing one and critically wounding the other.

Eyewitnesses to the shooting immediately reported it to police, and authorities quickly located and arrested the suspect as he fled the scene. According to police, the suspect told the arresting officers that he had a bomb in his vehicle, but after an inspection by the police bomb squad, the only weapons police recovered from the vehicle were an SKS rifle and two pistols.

At a press conference, Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas identified the suspect as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a 23-year-old African-American man who had changed his name from Carlos Leon Bledsoe after converting to Islam. In Arabic, the word mujahid is the singular form of mujahideen, and it literally means one who engages in jihad. Although Mujahid is not an uncommon Muslim name, it is quite telling that a convert to Islam would choose such a name – one who engages in jihad – to define his new identity. Muhammad was originally from Memphis, Tenn., but according to news reports was living and working in Little Rock.

Chief Thomas said Muhammad admitted to the shootings and told police that he specifically targeted soldiers. During an interrogation with a Little Rock homicide detective, Muhammad reportedly said that he was angry at the U.S. Army because of their attacks against Muslims overseas, that he opened fire intending to kill the two soldiers and that he would have killed more if they had been in the parking lot. These statements are likely what Chief Thomas was referring to when he noted in his press conference that Muhammad appears to have had political and religious motives for the attack and that it was conducted in response to U.S. military operations.

Chief Thomas also stated that the initial police investigation has determined that Muhammad acted alone and was not part of a wider conspiracy, but given that the shooting was an act of domestic terrorism directed against U.S military personnel, a thorough investigation has been launched by the FBI to ensure that Muhammad was not part of a larger group planning other attacks.

ABC News has reported that Muhammad had traveled to Yemen after his conversion, though the date of that travel and its duration were not provided in those reports. ABC also reported that while in Yemen, Muhammad was apparently arrested for carrying a fraudulent Somali passport and that upon his return from Yemen, the FBI opened a preliminary investigation targeting him.

The fact that the FBI was investigating Muhammad but was unable to stop this attack illustrates the difficulties that lone wolf militants present to law enforcement and security personnel, and also highlights some of the vulnerabilities associated with using law enforcement as the primary counterterrorism tool.

Challenges of the Lone Wolf

STRATFOR has long discussed the threat posed by lone wolf militants and the unique challenges they pose to law enforcement and security personnel. Of course, the primary challenge is that, by definition, lone wolves are solitary actors and it can be very difficult to determine their intentions before they act because they do not work with others. When militants are operating in a cell consisting of more than one person, there is a larger chance that one of them will get cold feet and reveal the plot to authorities, that law enforcement and intelligence personnel will intercept a communication between conspirators, or that law enforcement authorities will be able to introduce an informant into the group, as was the case in the recently foiled plot to bomb two Jewish targets in the Bronx and shoot down a military aircraft at a Newburgh, N.Y., Air National Guard base.

Obviously, lone wolves do not need to communicate with others or include them in the planning or execution of their plots. This ability to fly solo and under the radar of law enforcement has meant that some lone wolf militants such as Joseph Paul Franklin, Theodore Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph were able to operate for years before being identified and captured.

Lone wolves also pose problems because they can come from a variety of backgrounds with a wide range of motivations. While some lone wolves are politically motivated, others are religiously motivated and some are mentally unstable. Even among the religiously motivated there is variety. In addition to Muslim lone wolves like Muhammad, Mir Amal Kansi, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet and John Allen Muhammad, we have also seen anti-Semitic/Christian-identity adherents like Buford Furrow and Eric Rudolph, radical Roman Catholics like James Kopp and radical Protestants like Paul Hill. Indeed, the day before the Little Rock attack, Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion lone wolf gunman, killed prominent abortion doctor George Tiller in Wichita, Kan.

In addition to the wide spectrum of ideologies and motivations among lone wolves, there is also the issue of geographic dispersal. As we’ve seen from the lone wolf cases listed above, they have occurred in many different locations and are not just confined to attacks in Manhattan or Washington, D.C. They can occur anywhere.

Moreover, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between those extremists who intend to commit attacks from those who simply preach hate or hold radical beliefs (things that are not in themselves illegal due to First Amendment protections in the United States). Therefore, to single out likely lone wolves before they strike, authorities must spend a great deal of time and resources looking at individuals who might be moving from radical beliefs to radical actions. With such a large universe of potential suspects, this is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Limitations on Both Sides

Due to the challenges lone wolf militants present, the concept of leaderless resistance has been publicly and widely embraced in both the domestic terrorism and jihadist realms. However, despite this advocacy and the ease with which terrorist attacks can be conducted against soft targets, surprisingly few terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by lone wolf operatives. In fact, historically, we have seen more mentally disturbed lone gunmen than politically motivated lone wolf terrorists. A main reason for this is that it can be somewhat difficult to translate theory into action, and as STRATFOR has frequently noted, there is often a disconnect between intent and capability.

Because of the difficulty in obtaining the skills required to conduct a terrorist attack, many lone wolves do not totally operate in a vacuum, and many of them (like Muhammad) will usually come to somebody’s attention before they conduct an attack. Many times this occurs as they seek the skills or materials required to conduct a terrorist attack, which Muhammad appears to have been doing in Yemen.

However, in this case, it is important to remember that even though Muhammad had been brought to the FBI’s attention (probably through information obtained from the Yemeni authorities by the CIA in Yemen), he was only one of the thousands of such people the FBI opens a preliminary inquiry on each year. A preliminary inquiry is the basic level of investigation the FBI conducts, and it is usually opened for a limited period of time (though it can be extended with a supervisor’s approval). Unless the agents assigned to the inquiry turn up sufficient indication that a law has been violated, the inquiry will be closed.

If the inquiry indicates that there is the likelihood that a U.S. law has been violated, the FBI will open a full-field investigation into the matter. This will allow the bureau to exert significantly more investigative effort on the case and devote more investigative resources toward solving it. Out of the many preliminary inquiries opened on suspected militants, the FBI opens full-field investigations only on a handful of them. So, if the information reported by ABC News is correct, the FBI was not conducting surveillance on Muhammad because to do so it would have had to have opened a full-field investigation.

Of course, now that Muhammad has attacked, it is easy to say that the FBI should have paid more attention to him. Prior to an attack, however, intelligence is seldom, if ever, so black and white. Sorting out the individuals who intend to conduct attacks from the larger universe of people who hold radical thoughts and beliefs and assigning law enforcement and intelligence resources to monitor the activities of the really dangerous people has long been one of the very difficult tasks faced by counterterrorism authorities.

This difficulty is magnified when the FBI is looking at a lone wolf target because there is no organization, chain of command or specific communications channel on which to focus intelligence resources and gather information. Lacking information that would have tied Muhammad to other militant individuals or cells, or that would have indicated he was inclined to commit a crime, the FBI had little basis for opening a full-field investigation into his activities. These limitations, and the FBI’s notorious bureaucracy (as seen in its investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui and the 9/11 hijackers), are the longstanding shortfalls of the law-enforcement element of counterterrorism policy (the other elements are diplomacy, financial sanctions, intelligence and military).

However, politics have proved obstructive to all facets of counterterrorism policy. And politics may have been at play in the Muhammad case as well as in other cases involving Black Muslim converts. Several weeks ago, STRATFOR heard from sources that the FBI and other law enforcement organizations had been ordered to “back off” of counterterrorism investigations into the activities of Black Muslim converts. At this point, it is unclear to us if that guidance was given by the White House or the Department of Justice, or if it was promulgated by the agencies themselves, anticipating the wishes of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

As STRATFOR has previously noted, the FBI has a culture that is very conservative and risk-averse. Many FBI supervisors are reluctant to authorize investigations that they believe may have negative blow-back on their career advancement. In light of this institutional culture, and the order to be careful in investigations relating to Black Muslim converts, it would not be at all surprising to us if a supervisor refused to authorize a full-field investigation of Muhammad that would have included surveillance of his activities. Though in practical terms, even if a full-field investigation had been authorized, due to the caution being exercised in cases related to Black Muslim converts, the case would most likely have been micromanaged to the point of inaction by the special agent in charge of the office involved or by FBI headquarters.

Even though lone wolves operate alone, they are still constrained by the terrorist attack cycle, and because they are working alone, they have to conduct each step of the cycle by themselves. This means that they are vulnerable to detection at several different junctures as they plan their attacks, the most critical of which is the surveillance stage of the operation. Muhammad did not just select that recruiting center at random and attack on the spot. He had cased it prior to the attack just as he had been taught in the militant training camps he attended in Yemen. Law enforcement officials have reported that Muhammad may also have researched potential government and Jewish targets in Little Rock, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Louisville and Memphis.

Had the FBI opened a full-field investigation on Muhammad, and had it conducted surveillance on him, it would have been able to watch him participate in preoperational activities such as conducting surveillance of potential targets and obtaining weapons.

There is certainly going to be an internal inquiry at the FBI and Department of Justice – and perhaps even in Congress – to determine where the points of failure were in this case. We will be watching with interest to see what really transpired. The details will be extremely interesting, especially coming at a time when the Obama administration appears to be following the Clinton-era policy of stressing the primacy of the FBI and the law enforcement aspect of counterterrorism policy at the expense of intelligence and other elements.

U.S.–India Strategic Partnership on Laser-Based Missile Defense

January 29, 2009

by Lisa Curtis and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

WebMemo #2250

Last week, the Press Trust of India reported that defense officials intend to produce a laser capable of shooting down enemy ballistic missiles. The United States is a global leader in directed-energy defenses, including both low and high-powered lasers. American military research is also highly advanced in the technologies of acquiring targets as well as the command, control, and battle management systems necessary to identify and direct weapons to destroy missiles and other targets. In recent years, the United States and India have increased bilateral cooperation in a range of defense, counterterrorism, and homeland security areas. This cooperation is helping increase trust and confidence between the two nations while fostering security, stability, and prosperity in Asia. Working together on directed-energy developments offers a significant opportunity to strengthen the U.S.-India strategic partnership.

India Goes to Light Speed
The United States and India share many security concerns, such as the threat of ballistic missiles. V. K. Saraswat of the Defense Research and Development Organization rightly told the Press Times of India: “If you have a laser-based system on an airborne or seaborne platform, it can travel at the speed of light and in a few seconds, [and] we can kill a ballistic missile coming towards [India].” India’s interest in developing directed energy defenses is understandable, as lasers have several distinct advantages. Such weapons:

  • Can use a high-powered beam of energy to disable electrical components or detonate explosives, rendering the attack means such as the warhead or body of a missile useless;
  • Come with an almost infinite magazine–as long as the weapons have power, they can be recharged and fired again;
  • Can be aimed effectively using existing target acquisition systems (such as radars) and command and control systems (such as a computer battle management network); and
  • Can be employed with a minimum of risk toward surrounding civilians, buildings, or vehicles (such as aircraft, cars, and ships).

In addition, lasers are versatile. While high-powered lasers address ballistic missile threats, low-powered lasers have a number of potential security uses, from disabling small boats to downing shoulder-fired missiles to intercepting rockets and mortars. All these uses have application to Indian security concerns.

It is also worth noting that missile defenses, such as high-powered lasers, limit the potential for regional conflict. Missile defenses serve as important deterrents, undermining the effectiveness of enemy threats. They also provide an alternative to massive retaliation in the face of an actual attack. The security provided by missile defenses actually limits the likelihood of armed escalation or an arms race and makes diplomacy more effective. It is no coincidence that the greatest strides in reducing the nuclear arsenals came in the late 1980s, at the same time the U.S. was pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative. A world with effective missile defenses is safer and more stable.

American Arsenal
The United States has significant research and development capabilities regarding the application of lasers for national security uses. The Tactical High-Energy Laser (THEL) is one such experimental system tested by the U.S. Army. Development of the THEL began in 1996 as a joint program between the United States and Israel to develop a laser system capable of shooting down Katyusha rockets, artillery, and mortar shells. The THEL system uses radar to detect and track incoming targets. This information is then transferred to an optical tracking system, which refines the target tracking and positions the beam director. The deuterium fluoride chemical laser then fires, hitting the rocket or shell and causing it to explode far short of its intended target. More recently, the Army has experimented with low-power commercial solid-state lasers.

Another system under development in the United States is the Airborne Laser (ABL). The ABL is a system that uses a megawatt chemical laser mounted on a modified Boeing 747 to shoot down theater ballistic missiles. The megawatt-class laser was first successfully tested at full power in early 2006. The system is still under development.

A Shared Security Interest
The American record of military laser research and its many cooperative ventures with friendly and allied powers suggests that a joint U.S.-Indian directed energy program is certainly achievable. The shared interests of both nations in promoting security and stability in Asia also indicates they have a common cause in developing military technologies that would lessen the potential for conflict while effectively countering terrorism. The U.S. should explore opportunities for joint development of cutting edge directed energy technologies–lasers–with India as part of overall missile defense dialogue and deepening of military-to-military ties.

Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow in the Asian Studies Center, and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research Fellow in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


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