Tag: drones

ISRAEL’S MILITARY POST-“ARAB FALL”: BEYOND ARROW AND IRON DOME, OFFENSIVE CAPACITY STRENGTHENED — IRAN A CONTINUING CONCERN, AND NAVY NOW FOCUSES ON GAS-FIELD DEFENCE

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Israel Plans Military 'Revolution' to Face New Regional Threat: Jonathan Marcus, BBC, 12 July 2013—Israel's armed forces – the most powerful and best equipped in the Middle East – are changing. Older tanks and aircraft will be retired. Some 4,000 – maybe even more – professional career officers will be dismissed. A range of other changes over the next five years are intended to make the Israeli military leaner but more effective.

 

Threats to Israeli Aircraft over Iran: James Dunnigan, Strategy Page, July 27, 2013—Iranian military leaders were relieved at the recent election of the “moderate” Hassan Rowhani to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Rowhani is known to be a superb negotiator and someone you can reason with. Ahmadinejad was neither of those things and his constant and hysterical threats to Israel made war with Israel an ever increasing possibility.

 

IDF’s Druze Battalion Tests New Techniques for Fighting Hezbollah: IDF Blog, July 4, 2013—The battalion developed techniques for fighting Hezbollah, based on years of experience operating in Israel’s northern border region; the new methods were tested in a battalion-wide exercise last week.

 

Israeli Technology Turns Air Into Drinking Water for Troops: NoCamels, Feb. 28, 2012—Military troops around the world, no matter where they are instated, know that even with the best training, personnel and arms, they cannot survive battle if they are lacking one vital thing: water. Among the concerns of military heads is  to ensure water sources are always available, even in the most arid of places.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Evolution of Israeli Military Strategy: Asymmetry, Vulnerability, Pre-emption and Deterrence: Gerald M. Steinberg, Jewish Virtual Library, October 2011

IAF's Flying Camel Squadron: Drones not Always Best: Linda Gradstein, Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2013

IDF Ground Forces Launch Groundbreaking Battle Lab: Yael Zahavi, IDF, Jan 17, 2013

Israel’s Military-Entrepreneurial Complex Owns Big Data: Matthew Kalman, MIT Technology Review, July 11, 2013

Gaza Crossing Weekly Report: COGAT/Israel Ministry of Defence, July 20, 2013

Israel’s Skylark Spy Plane: Ultimate Weapons-Robotics. Discovery Channel. Video

Inside an Israeli Defense Lab: Popular Mechanics.

 

 

ISRAEL PLANS MILITARY 'REVOLUTION'
TO FACE NEW REGIONAL THREAT

Jonathan Marcus

BBC, 12 July 2013

 

Israel's armed forces – the most powerful and best equipped in the Middle East – are changing. Older tanks and aircraft will be retired. Some 4,000 – maybe even more – professional career officers will be dismissed. A range of other changes over the next five years are intended to make the Israeli military leaner but more effective. Elements of the plans were set out by the Israel Defense Forces' Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, earlier this week. Once implemented, they promise what some analysts have described as "a revolution" in Israel's military affairs.

 

In part, of course, this is all about money. The defence budget in Israel is under growing pressure – social protest has erupted on Israel's streets too. Significant cuts have to be made. This is one reason why units equipped with older tanks like derivatives of the US M60 will be disbanded, as well as some Air Force units with older aircraft that are much more expensive to maintain. Streamlining the career military may also save funds in the long run.

 

But what is really going on here owes less to budgetary pressures and more to the dramatic changes that are under way in the strategic geography of the region around Israel.

 

The Arab world is living through an upheaval that shows no sign of ending. The big military players like Egypt, Syria and Iraq are either facing political uncertainty, full-scale civil war, or have been exhausted by invasion and more than a decade of bitter internal violence.

 

The Israeli military's five-year plan has been postponed over recent years – partly due to the budgetary uncertainty and partly due to the dramatic changes sweeping across the region. As retired Brig Gen Michael Herzog, a former head of IDF Strategic Planning, told me: "The prospect of a conventional war breaking out between the IDF and a traditionally organised Arab army is now much less than in the past. However, the risk from non-state actors, of asymmetric warfare, and greater unrest along Israel's borders (with the exception perhaps of Jordan) is increasing and it is these threats that the Israeli military has to plan for."

 

So what will change ? Gen Herzog says there will probably be fewer tanks, but this goes much further than simply changing the IDF's order of battle. There will be a much greater emphasis upon intelligence and cyber-warfare. Given the instability in Syria, there will be a new territorial division covering the Golan front. There will be significant investment in the capacity to strike deep into enemy territory and to improve the co-ordination between air and ground forces.

 

There will be an even greater emphasis upon speed and the deployment of weapons that can strike targets rapidly and with great accuracy. The use of the Tamuz system, a highly accurate guided missile, during recent months against sporadic fire coming from Syrian positions is a pointer to the types of weaponry that will be more important in the future. Tamuz is actually a relatively old system, recently declassified, but its successors will play an important part in Israel's new order of battle.

 

"The Israeli military concept has always been to shorten the duration of any conflict, but this has become more important than ever before because of the growing missile arsenals of groups like the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, which means the Israeli home-front is under threat like never before," Gen Herzog told me.

 

Israel already deploys a variety of defensive measures like the Arrow and Iron Dome anti-missile systems, but improving its offensive capability is seen as the key to managing the tempo and duration of any future conflict. By and large, Gen Herzog welcomes the new military plan. However, he says that "there are of course risks during any period of transition".

 

Budget constraints mean that in the short-term training is being cut back. This, he notes, "is the easiest way to save money in the short term". He points to the IDF's problems in Lebanon in 2006 as an example of an army that had spent too little time training for large-scale manoeuvre warfare. "Training is definitely down this year, but is set to rise in future years," he says, adding: "This is a risk albeit a calculated one."  Nonetheless, the assessment among the Israeli High Command is that this risk is bearable, given the disarray afflicting its Arab neighbours.

 

In Egypt, the peace treaty with Israel may not be popular but the Egyptian army is wedded to it, not least as the ticket that opens the way to large-scale US military aid.

Israeli soldier during military drill Budgetary constraints mean that military training will be cut back in the short-term Iraq is no longer a serious military player. Syria is in crisis and the regime's future remains in doubt. Instability and uncertainty characterise Israel's strategic environment with the risk of rapid escalation that could see conflicts on a number of fronts.

 

Many military analysts accept that reform is justified. Perhaps the greatest risk is that the government will not make good on future defence spending pledges and this ambitious programme could just look like retrenchment. Of course the Iranian nuclear challenge remains a potential threat, against which Israeli Air Force planners in particular are building up their capabilities.

 

New missions, too, are fast emerging, not least for the Israeli Navy which must now protect gas field installations off-shore which promise to make the country self-reliant in energy terms for a considerable period.

Contents

 

 

THREATS TO ISRAELI AIRCRAFT OVER IRAN

James Dunnigan

Strategy Page, July 27, 2013

 

Iranian military leaders were relieved at the recent election of the “moderate” Hassan Rowhani to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Rowhani is known to be a superb negotiator and someone you can reason with. Ahmadinejad was neither of those things and his constant and hysterical threats to Israel made war with Israel an ever increasing possibility. This was made worse by the growing threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad also liked to boast of how well prepared Iran was to kick Israeli ass if it ever came to a fight. Iranian military leaders cringed at this because they knew that the military power Ahmadinejad was boasting of was largely an illusion.

 

The constant stream of boastful press releases put out by the Iranian military were for building domestic morale, not to describe any real improvements in Iranian military capabilities. The Israeli’s knew this, as did Ahmadinejad (well, he was told) but the numerous threats against Israel caused the Israelis to threaten right back. The problem was that Israel was much more capable to attacking Iran than Iran was in defending itself.

While Israel has a huge stockpile of fuel, ammo, and other supplies for wartime (about 30 days’ worth), Iran has very little. While Iran pumps a lot of oil, it doesn’t have the refineries to produce much aircraft grade fuel. Iran has few smart bombs, missiles, and, well, not much of anything compared to Israel.

 

Israel can put over 500 aircraft (mostly F-15s and F-16s) a day (as in sorties) over Iran. That’s in addition to more than twice as many for any short range threat. Israel has over 25,000 smart bombs and missiles (not counting smaller missiles like Hellfire). Within a few days this Israeli air power could destroy what little Iran has in the way of major weapons systems (armoured vehicles, aircraft, warships, and weapons research and manufacturing facilities). Worse, the earlier claims of Iranian military strength would not only be exposed as false but greatly diminished from what they actually were before the Israelis came by. Iranian military leaders did not want this to happen, although the senior clerics of the religious dictatorship that rules Iran saw a positive angle to an Israeli attack; it would rally all Iranians behind the generally disliked government.

 

The Iranian problem is that three decades of sanctions has made it impossible to replace obsolete and worn out gear or even maintain the elderly systems they have to rely on. Thus, the best defences (anti-aircraft missiles and jet fighters) against an Israeli attack are largely absent. What is available is ancient and probably ineffective against Israeli SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) capabilities.

 

For example, Iran has been having increasing problems keeping its 1970s era F-5s flying. The ones that are still flying tend to crash a lot, or not be available for use because of maintenance problems (including spare parts shortages). Spare parts for all U.S. aircraft Iran still uses have been hard to come by. Iran has managed, sort of. Nevertheless, the Iranian Air Force is largely a fraud. It has lots of aircraft that, for the most part, sit there but can't fly because of age and lack of replacement parts. Those that can fly would likely provide target practice for Israeli fighters.

 

The Iranian Air Force is still recovering from the effects of the 1979 revolution (which led to an embargo on spare parts and new aircraft). Despite that, many Iranian warplanes remain flyable but only for short periods. The main reason for even that is an extensive smuggling operation that obtains spare parts. Two of their aircraft, the U.S. F-4D and F-5E Tiger, were widely used around the world. Somewhere, someone had parts for these planes that Iran could buy. There are still about 40 of each in service, with less than half of them flyable at any time.

 

This was less the case with Iran's most expensive warplane, the U.S. F-14 Tomcat. Iran was the only export customer of this aircraft. Some F-14s have been kept flyable, despite the rumored sabotage of Iran's AIM-54 Phoenix missiles by U.S. technicians, as they were leaving. To demonstrate this, they sent 25 F-14s on a fly-over of Tehran in 1985. Today, Iran has about 20 F-14s, with less than half of them flyable.

 

Iran has sought to buy new foreign aircraft. In the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, they sought to buy from Russia. Despite the low prices, a combination of Western pressure (to not sell) and the lack of Iranian money for high-ticket items, not that many aircraft were obtained. One unforeseen opportunity was the 1991 Gulf War. Many Iraqi aircraft (most of them Russian-built) fled to Iran to avoid American attack. The Iranians never returned them. Iran ended up with up to 60 MiG-29s. There were also 18 Su-24s, a force that was expanded by more purchases from Russia. Black market spare parts have been available, but the MiG-29 is a notoriously difficult aircraft to maintain, even when you have all the parts you need.

 

Iran currently has about two hundred fighters and fighter bombers, but only about half can be put into action and then usually for only one sortie a day. The chronic shortage of spare parts limits the number of hours the aircraft can be flown. This means pilots lack good flying skills. The poor maintenance and untrained pilots leads to more accidents.

 

Iran is similarly ill-prepared when it comes to ground based anti-aircraft defence. Iran has managed to keep operational some of the American Hawk anti-aircraft missile systems it bought in the 1970s. But these are not very capable these days and the Israelis know all about the Hawk system. Iran has had limited success in buying new systems from Russia and China and, in general, is as ill-prepared as it is in the air to oppose an Israeli attack.

 

Contents

 

IDF’S DRUZE BATTALION TESTS
NEW TECHNIQUES FOR FIGHTING HEZBOLLAH

IDF Blog, July 4, 2013

 

The IDF’s Herev Battalion, made up of members of Israel’s Druze community, has gained many years of experience performing unique missions near the Israel-Lebanon border. In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, for instance, Herev was the first force to cross the border and the last to return – exhausted from completing a range of complex missions that earned the unit a citation.

 

The Herev Battalion, referred to as the IDF’s “spearhead on the Lebanon border”, used its wealth of operational experience in the region to develop new combat techniques for fighting against Hezbollah. These new techniques were tested last week for the first time in an intensive battalion-wide exercise. “Combat in Lebanon demands the use of heavy armor and the slow advancement of troops,” explained Lt. Col. Shadi Abu Fares, commander of the Herev Battalion. He went on to explain that fighting Hezbollah requires a specific method of combat, which includes the intensive use of firepower.

 

 “In order to fight against the enemy in Lebanon in the most correct manner, we took the techniques that exist today in the IDF for fighting in open areas, and we made the necessary adjustments. With the help of the battalion’s experience, and combined with an understanding of what to expect next time, we managed to develop a better and more efficient method,” he said.

 

As part of the conclusions drawn from the exercise, a special document was drafted to present the techniques, which will be sent to officers throughout the IDF in order to assist in building a new combat doctrine for fighting against terror organizations. “The Herev Battalion must teach the entire IDF how to fight effectively against Hezbollah,” said Col. Zion Ratzon, commander of the regional brigade to which the Herev Battalion is subordinate.

 

“There are additional adjustments to be made, but the technique proved itself during the exercise. We can already see how the fighters are now speaking a new language and that there is confidence in the methods that we tested,” Lt. Col. Abu Fares said.

 

The new combat techniques were put to the test in the Herev Battalion’s most recent exercise, which took place last week and consisted of three days of non-stop fighting in the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights. The exercise simulated the battalion’s role during combat while functioning as part of a full brigade, in order to train the commanders to cooperate with other forces.

 

The troops were accompanied by a tank platoon on their journey through the hilly terrain, while combat engineering teams cleared paths through the thick scrub and artillery forces provided suppressive fire that shook the northern Golan Heights. The goal of the method: provide so much fire that “the enemy cannot lift its head.”

 

The exercise simulated as closely as possible full-fledged combat in Lebanon, requiring the troops to deal with enemy rocket fire falling on their staging areas, sudden changes in mission plans and evacuating casualties in armored personnel carriers (APCs). “It was a drill against Hezbollah in every respect,” Lt. Col. Abu Faris said. “Following [the exercise], I can say with certainty that the Herev Battalion is ready for anything.”

 

A senior officer in the sector explained last week that Hezbollah’s actions in southern Lebanon are becoming more and more aggressive. Israeli forces stationed on the border observe well how Hezbollah agents work around the clock in the villages of southern Lebanon to gather intelligence on the IDF. The Herev Battalion, whose soldiers’ families live in northern Israel and are likely to be the first to suffer from a Hezbollah attack, continues to prepare for the “day after” on the sensitive Lebanese border.

 

“Changes in the region obligate us to be ready for war,” the regional brigade commander said at the end of the exercise. “For every eventuality that will be needed, with the Herev Battalion I feel more confident than any other battalion.”

 

Contents

 

 

ISRAELI TECHNOLOGY TURNS
AIR INTO DRINKING WATER FOR TROOPS

NoCamels, Feb. 28, 2012

 

Military troops around the world, no matter where they are instated, know that even with the best training, personnel and arms, they cannot survive battle if they are lacking one vital thing: water.

Among the concerns of military heads is  to ensure water sources are always available, even in the most arid of places.

 

One Israeli company took up the challenge to ensure water can be readily available, anywhere and at any time, by extracting it from the most common of things: air. Water-Gen, based in Rishon LeZion, Israel, specializes in water generation and water treatment technologies integrated with tactical military vehicles and ground units. Their technology extracts water from the ambient air humidity, and turns it into drinking water.

 

Initially, the system filters the air so that water can be extracted and accommodated in containers. Then, it is cooled and purified into drinking water. This water can be served from a tap within the system or inside the cabin. Chairmen and co-CEO, Arye Kohavi, says that “water transportation is one of the most common reasons for the departure of convoys across Afghanistan. These convoys are attacked and have casualties.” He adds that “if we can produce the water at the exact point where it is consumed, we spare the need to transport water and reduce the risk and expenses.”

 

According to the Water-Gen, the device, which can be fitted onto vehicles, produces 10-20 gallons (40-80 liters) of pure drinking water a day, even in harsh weather and field conditions. The system, which is operated by solar or electric energy, is designed to meet military needs and standards, the company adds.

 

The company has wide-scale pending patents for the systems and technology. In 2011, it completed a three-week experiment with US Army ground units (Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment), in which its systems provided the soldiers drinking water throughout the drills.

 

Eventually, Water-Gen hopes the technology can be implemented not just in the military, but in water-scarce regions around the world too. The United States, India, The UK, Spain and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have already shown interest in the company’s products.

 

Contents
 

The Evolution of Israeli Military Strategy: Asymmetry, Vulnerability, Pre-emption and Deterrence: Gerald M. Steinberg, Jewish Virtual Library, October 2011—When the nascent Israeli leadership met on May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv to declare independence, the country was already being attacked by neighboring Arab armies. Israel overcame these hurdles in 1948 and in subsequent military confrontations, yet despite the development of formidable military capabilities, the inherent asymmetries and existential threats to the Jewish nation-state remain.

 

IAF's Flying Camel Squadron: Drones not Always Best: Linda Gradstein, Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2013—While more and more armies around the world are using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, for intelligence gathering, Israel, itself a leader in drone technology and a leading source of UAVs to other countries, continues to use manned aircraft for many of its missions.

 

IDF Ground Forces Launch Groundbreaking Battle Lab: Yael Zahavi, IDF, Jan 17, 2013—The IDF Ground Forces Command has unveiled a state-of-the-art battle laboratory integrating the latest simulation technology to create life-like operational scenarios. By accurately representing enemy figures, weapons and territory, the new system – which was unveiled last month – allows for the simulation of company-sized operations without the danger of a live-fire exercise.

 

Israel’s Military-Entrepreneurial Complex Owns Big Data: Matthew Kalman, MIT Technology Review, July 11, 2013—Two years ago, a half-dozen programmers and entrepreneurs started working together in a Tel Aviv basement to create one of Israel’s 5,000 high-tech companies. It was a stealth company, but these 20-somethings were used to secrecy. Most had served together in the same military intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces.

 

Gaza Crossing Weekly Report: COGAT/Israel Ministry of Defence, July 20, 2013. pdf—The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the Ministry of Defence are responsible for traffic through the two Israeli crossings into Gaza. In a weekly report they itemize what has been let in or out of Gaza. Some interesting numbers.

 

Israel’s Skylark Spy Plane: Ultimate Weapons-Robotics. Discovery Channel. (Video)—A series of short videos documenting a few of Israel’s military innovations now in use.

 

Inside an Israeli Defense Lab: Rachel Nuwer, Popular Mechanics, Mar. 2013—A series of slides showing new developments in Israel’s defence labs. 

 

 

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AFGHAN END GAME – CAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TRUMP INTERNAL TRIBAL DIVISIONS & INDIAN/PAKISTANI/U.S. RIVALRIES?

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: some articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click on the article  link for the complete text – Ed.)

 

 

Two Diverging Roads for Afghanistan: Thomas Barfield, Real Clear World, Jan. 14, 2013—As the 2014 date for the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan approaches, the country faces two starkly different futures. One is a return to the civil war conditions of the 1990s that brought disaster and disunity. The other is the emergence of a stable, prosperous Afghanistan bankrolled by these same neighbours. In this scenario economic self-interests trump old parochial politics.

 

U.S. Needs Significant Military Presence in Afghanistan: Ahmad Majidyar, CNN, Jan. 11, 2013—The United States has two vital interests in the AfPak region: preventing al Qaeda and its affiliates from reconstituting in Afghanistan and ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not fall into terrorists’ hands. These two objectives cannot be guaranteed without a significant military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

 

Pakistan's Territorial Disunity Stirs Ghosts of a Violent Past: Sajjad Ashraf, The National (UAE), Nov. 11, 2012—More than 30 years after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan finds itself sucked into a quagmire from which it is hard to extract itself. Its governance structures, never strong points, are broken. Pakistan is now radicalised to a point where even the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, accuses it of exporting terrorism.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan on Rise for 2013: Greg Miller, Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2013
A Million StepsAmericans in Afghanistan: Bing West, National Review, October 15, 2012

Playing With Fire: Pakistan Must Crack Down on Terrorism for Its Own Sake: Editorial, Times of India, Jan 14, 2013

America's Go-to Man in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province: David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 12, 2013

Pakistan Bombings: Militancy is a Many-Headed Beast Here: Samira Shackle, The Guardian, Jan. 11, 2013

Despite Fears of Afghan Collapse, U.S. May Pull All Troops by 2014: Robert Burns,  National Post, Jan 9, 2013

 

 

 

 

TWO DIVERGING ROADS FOR AFGHANISTAN

Thomas Barfield

Real Clear World, Jan. 14, 2013

 

As the 2014 date for the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan approaches, the country faces two starkly different futures. One is a return to the civil war conditions of the 1990s that brought disaster and disunity. In this scenario Afghanistan is abandoned by the international community before falling prey to the machinations of neighbours who bankroll conflict between rival ethnic groups, potentially bringing about the country's dissolution as a unitary state. The other is the emergence of a stable, prosperous Afghanistan bankrolled by these same neighbours. In this scenario economic self-interests trump old parochial politics.

 

But how can two such divergent paths proceed from the same Afghan starting point? The neighbours and rivalries are the same, with the Afghans politically fractured and the West marginalized in both cases. The direction depends on whether Afghanistan breaks its longstanding lack of economic integration with the outside world. Growing Asian economies could make life-transforming investments in Afghanistan, restoring its old role as an overland trade entrepôt and ensuring a new role as mineral treasure house. Instability and violence could derail this process, and the short-term thinking of Afghanistan's current political class presents an almost greater challenge.

 

The pessimistic path has been well trodden over Afghanistan's past 35 years. Over the past century and a half a series of Afghan rulers cultivated economic isolationism and religious xenophobia as a protective survival response to successive "Great Game" rivalries over their country. Indeed, Afghanistan had the almost unique misfortune of attracting new geopolitical conflict whenever a previous one subsided. In the 19th century British India and Czarist Russia both preserved and clashed over Afghanistan as a buffer state between their respective colonial empires. In the 20th century Afghanistan became a proxy battleground in the Cold War. And Afghanistan opened the 21st century under Taliban rule, hosting Osama bin Laden who organized a terrorist attack on the United States. The culmination of each of these geopolitical rivalries was one or more foreign invasions, foreign occupations and foreign withdrawals, of which the 2014 departure will be the fourth for Afghanistan since 1841.

 

Many analysts assume disorder will ensue with the American withdrawal and predict quick victory for the Taliban over a weak Karzai government in Kabul. Afghan history suggests otherwise. Insurgents do have a splendid track record in getting foreign armies to leave Afghanistan, but tend to struggle in displacing a Kabul government that retains the patronage of a Great Power. Insurgents' unity against foreigners breaks down when the conflict is only among Afghans. Supporters of Kabul governments also historically replace their feckless, passive rulers with more active ones. Afghan rulers installed by an invading foreign army fail, but those installed by a withdrawing foreign army succeeded. Only in the absence of any Great Power partnership did Afghanistan fall into anarchy, such as the decade-long civil war in the 1990s that brought the Taliban to power. Such devolution into civil war rather than Taliban victory is the more likely scenario if Afghanistan falls into political violence.

 

It could take a number of forms. Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India could bring their rivalry into Afghanistan to fight a proxy war with Pakistan supporting the Taliban and India backing the Kabul government. Or, Afghanistan regions could revive their militias and turn a two-party war into a free-for-all. Or the Central Asian states, Russia, India and Iran could back a two-state solution that splits the non-Pashtun north, west and center from the Pashtun south and east, leaving Pakistan with a supersized Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

 

The positive path harks back to long ago when Afghanistan was the prosperous hub of an international overland Eurasian trade network linking China with South Asia and the Middle East. Today's model would have China and India making massive investments in rail systems and processing plants to extract Afghanistan's mineral deposits. Pakistan and India would support construction of pipelines and pylons through Afghan territory to import natural gas from Turkmenistan and hydroelectricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Landlocked Central Asian states would transit Afghan roads and new rail lines to reach ocean ports of Iran or Pakistan.

 

Few in the West give this possibility much credence, but they have not been following the moves of Afghanistan's neighbours. With the exception of Pakistan, all have already committed large investments and infrastructure that integrate Afghanistan into their economies, motivated not by charity but pursuit of profits and resources.

 

The list of projects is impressive. In 2008 India completed construction of a 220-kilometer road connecting the Iranian port Chahbahar with Afghanistan's Nimroz Province. As part of a larger billion-dollar-plus Indian-financed transportation network within Afghanistan, the new road ended Pakistan's former monopoly on seaborne transit trade to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia. India has also taken a large role in constructing $500 million project financed by the Asian Development Bank to build a 1300-megawatt, high-voltage transmission power line through Afghanistan, across the Khyber Pass into Pakistan.

 

Despite its suspicion of India, Pakistan is poised to be the greatest beneficiary of a new Central Asia/South Asia Regional Electricity Market. In 2008 China signed a $3 billion mining agreement for a 30-year lease on the rich Aynak copper deposit south of Kabul with an estimated value of $88 billion. China has already begun preliminary site development and announced plans to finance and construct a rail line north to its western province of Xinjiang through the Hindu Kush Mountains. Other mining projects include an Indian-financed agreement to mine 1.8 billion tons of iron ore from the Hajigak deposit west of Kabul, a $14 billion investment that also includes a steel-mill complex and transport links.

 

Even the long stalled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline (TAPI) no longer seems like a pipe dream. Designed to carry up to 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, the 1,800-kilometer long pipeline, at a cost of $7.6 billion, would make Afghanistan the primary export corridor for Turkmenistan's enormous surplus of natural gas desperately in demand by energy-poor South Asia.

 

By way of comparison, the United States has funded $1.6 billion in infrastructure projects since 2006. Significantly, the many projects span multiple economic sectors and Asia's largest emerging economic powers play key roles. The projects do not demand Western financing, nor do all need to succeed for Afghanistan to prosper. As each comes online the risk/reward calculation of making trouble in Afghanistan changes. Pakistan might think twice about supporting attacks in Kabul if the Afghans can turn off the lights in Islamabad. China is unlikely to sit idly by if its investments and engineers are attacked by insurgents. As Afghanistan's neighbors become more dependent on transportation, minerals and energy flows within a common regional market, preserving Afghanistan's peace and stability moves from the realm of goodwill into the matrix of self-interest. For those that think any stability is impossible to achieve in Afghanistan, a similar growing economic interdependence in Western Europe after 1945 proved more successful in preserving peace than any set of political treaties.

 

The Afghan government plays only a passive role in these developments. Other than balancing out its mineral contracts with both India and China, it has displayed no strategic vision. If Afghanistan wishes to become another Dubai rather than another Somalia, it needs imaginative leaders who offer an economic vision that offers hope to people who have already suffered too much.

 

Thomas Barfield's is director of Boston University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies & Civilization and currently serves as president of the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies.

 

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PAKISTAN'S TERRITORIAL DISUNITY
STIRS GHOSTS OF A VIOLENT PAST

Sajjad Ashraf

The National (UAE), Nov. 11, 2012

 

More than 30 years after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan finds itself sucked into a quagmire from which it is hard to extract itself. Its governance structures, never strong points, are broken. Pakistan is now radicalised to a point where even the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, accuses it of exporting terrorism. Located on historic invasion routes to India, the lands that now constitute Pakistan have had their fair share of border changes. In the process, many kingdoms, sultanates and states have been formed and disintegrated. Perceived discrimination was the basis of independence movements that created Pakistan, and later Bangladesh. And today, three different territorial issues have the potential of seriously altering the current boundaries of the state.

 

Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province by area, constituting nearly 42 per cent of the country and home to much of its natural resources, is into its fifth military confrontation with the federation since its controversial accession in 1948. Balochis have continued to resent the exploitation of their resources, with little compensation. The current troubles began in 2002, when the army moved in to set up cantonments in Kohlu and Sui districts, which are located in the middle of the country.

 

The callous killing of the Oxford educated tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in 2006, has led the Baloch nationalists and the military into a war of attrition. Thousands of Baloch young men have allegedly disappeared in the process. Many tortured and mutilated bodies have since been found…The [Pakistan] Supreme Court  has ruled that the Balochistan government has constitutionally failed. The military's statement supporting a political solution to Balochistan provided it is "within the constitution" sounds hollow. Yet proposed energy pipelines, critical to the economic growth of Pakistan and Gwadar port's success, depend upon peace in Balochistan.

 

The second territorial hot spot is Sindh, the only province that voted for a Muslim League-majority government before the partition of India. People in Sindh have not forgiven the Punjab-led army for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's killing, in 1979 (the Bhutto family traces its ancestral roots to Sindh). To destroy Bhutto charisma, especially in urban Sindh, General Zia Al Haq sponsored the Muhajir Qaumi Movement-MQM (meaning refugee – the descendants of migrants from India, and later renamed Muttahida Qaumi Movement), arguably the first ethnic party in Pakistan. The Karachi-centred MQM has been unable to garner any support in other provinces.

 

Pashtuns, about 25 per cent of the 20 million people in Karachi, now demand more political space. With MQM unable to augment their numbers, every round of trouble is deadlier than the previous one. To secure a governing coalition, President Asif Ali Zardari, is taking the short-term route of placating the MQM, which is widely believed to harbour plans to divide Sindh. Knowing their value to President Zardari, the MQM demands and receives higher returns every time it threatens to walk out of the coalition. The recently promulgated Sindh local government law, negotiated secretly between Mr Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the MQM will solidify MQM's control of cities and thus access to huge funds. The Sindhi nationalists and others coalition partners have quit Sindh cabinet in protest. The MQM and the Pashtuns are arming themselves for a possible showdown. With time running against them, the MQM are in a hurry to secure political advantage.

 

The third territory in crisis is southern Punjab. Some months back the PPP, protesting against discrimination, called for the division of Punjab for "administrative" reasons into a Saraiki speaking southern Punjab province, and a northern Punjab. But the real reason is PPP's inability to break the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N, referring to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) stranglehold over Punjab for over a quarter of a century.

 

For obvious reasons, a call for the division of Punjab, which considers itself as the glue holding the country together, evokes sharp reaction. Dithering initially, the PML-N, mindful of the electoral cost of opposing the idea, demanded Punjab be divided into three parts instead of two. Political sparring has already begun for elections next year, leading to hardening of positions drawing similarities to East and West Pakistan fissures before 1970 elections.  The big issue is the reaction of the Punjab-based military. If trouble spills over to a point where a military solution is sought, a Bangladesh-like situation may arise, which will predictably be the "1971 moment", as some commentators fear. That year, of course, was when Bangladesh earned its independence.

 

Only a few things, like cold-blooded attacks on teenage girls, anti-Americanism or cricket, seems to unite Pakistanis now. Indeed, on the day Malala Yousafzai was attacked, 13 innocent women and children were killed in a US drone attack. While history will judge the US for its actions, Pakistan needs to shed its own ignorance, elect credible and honest leaders, establish the rule of law and look inward to secure its future.

 

Sajjad Ashraf is a former Pakistani foreign service officer and an adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore

 

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U.S. NEEDS SIGNIFICANT
MILITARY PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN

Ahmad Majidyar

CNN, Jan. 11, 2013

 

President Barack Obama will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai today [jan 11] at the White House to assess the progress of the war and discuss America’s future role in Afghanistan. The two leaders are expected to talk about a wide range of issues, particularly concerning security transition to the Afghan lead, reconciliation with the Taliban, and Afghanistan’s presidential elections slated for April 2014. At the top of the meeting agenda, however, will be a discussion over the nature, scope and obligations of a residual U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan after the foreign combat mission there ends next year. Three key issues are likely to be contentious in the talks: legal immunity for U.S. soldiers, transfer of detention facilities to the Afghan government, and Kabul’s request for advanced military equipment.

 

The immunity issue, which derailed negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and Iraq in late 2011, will be the most sensitive one. A postwar U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is inconceivable unless American soldiers are granted protection from local prosecution. Nonetheless, while Karzai might use the question of immunity as leverage to extract concessions from the White House, the issue is unlikely to be a deal breaker this time. Kabul will be more flexible than Baghdad in negotiating a SOFA with Washington because, unlike oil-rich Iraq, Afghanistan’s economy is almost entirely dependent on foreign aid. Moreover, the Afghan government requires U.S. and NATO help to fund, train, and equip its 350,000 security personnel for many years beyond 2014.

 

Another sticking point could be Karzai’s demand for transfer of all detainees held by the U.S. military at a facility in Bagram Air Base near Kabul. The U.S. has already handed over more than 3,000 terrorism suspects to the Afghan government since the two sides signed an agreement last March, but Karzai has recently accused U.S. forces of breaching the accord by still keeping some prisoners under custody. Washington believes the Afghans are not yet ready to take over the control of all prisoners, especially ones believed to be too dangerous or affiliated with al Qaeda….

 

Leaked reports suggest the White House is considering cutting troop numbers by 20,000 to 30,000 this year and keeping as few as 2,500 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, despite requests by military commanders in the field to maintain most of the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops through the next two fighting seasons and a larger post-2014 presence. Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, said Tuesday [Jan 8] that a complete pullout by the end of next year is also an option. But while a steep drawdown and keeping a small or no residual force may be politically expedient for the Obama administration, it is a recipe for failure in Afghanistan.

 

First, without a significant military presence after 2014, Washington risks undoing the gains of the past decade and allowing al Qaeda and the Taliban to reconstitute in parts of Afghanistan. Terrorist groups have already returned to some Afghan areas vacated by withdrawing foreign troops. Residents of eastern Nuristan Province, for example, say about 70 percent of the province is under the de facto rule of the Taliban and foreign militant groups, including al Qaeda and Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT). More remote areas could fall into terrorists’ control if U.S. forces leave precipitously.

 

Second, a hasty pullout undermines the training and strengthening of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Over the past three years, the ANSF has made remarkable progress in size and quality and is now responsible for security of 75 percent of Afghanistan’s population. But it still remains heavily reliant on the coalition for enablers, such as logistics, air power, medevac, reconnaissance, route-clear equipment and intelligence. A Pentagon study released last month rated only one of 23 Afghan Army brigades as independent. Without coalition’s help, the ANSF’s operational capabilities will decline dramatically. NATO and other allied nations would also not provide sufficient numbers of advisors and mentors for the ANSF if they perceive ambivalence from Washington.

 

Third, without a post-2014 military presence, the CIA-led drone strikes into Pakistan’s tribal regions will most likely cease. With Washington-Islamabad ties at their nadir, the U.S. drone campaign against al Qaeda and its affiliates in South and North Waziristan is now entirely dependent on bases in Afghanistan. The Navy Seal helicopters tasked with killing bin Laden flew from a base in eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

 

Fourth, a significant post-2014 military presence is needed to send a clear message to friends and enemies in the region that the United States and its allies are not abandoning Afghanistan. The Taliban will not have an incentive to enter meaningful peace talks if they see allied forces on the run. With the ANSF not yet ready to defend against a Taliban return, warlords and minority ethnic leaders would decide to take things on their own hands. Many local strongmen have already begun rearming their militias in preparation for a potential civil war.

 

The United States has two vital interests in the AfPak region: preventing al Qaeda and its affiliates from reconstituting in Afghanistan and ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not fall into terrorists’ hands. These two objectives cannot be guaranteed without a significant military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

 

Ahmad Majidyar is a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. The views expressed are the author’s own.

 

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A Million Steps: Bing West, National Review, October 15, 2012—Over the past several years, the coalition has partnered throughout the country with Afghan soldiers and police. The goal was for the Afghans to gain skills, confidence, and independence by following our example in operations. That process has ceased, with no known replacement program. Now, without American firepower, reinforcements, and medical evacuation, Afghan forces are even more reluctant to patrol. The Taliban have gained freedom of movement and a psychological edge.

 

U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan on Rise for 2013: Greg Miller, Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2013—The CIA has opened the year with a flurry of drone strikes in Pakistan, pounding Taliban targets along the country’s tribal belt at a time when the Obama administration is preparing to disclose its plans for pulling most U.S. forces out of neighboring Afghanistan.

 

Playing With Fire: Pakistan Must Crack Down on Terrorism for its Own Sake: Editorial, Times of India, Jan 14, 2013—It's no secret that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, remains a state within a state and continues to patronise known anti-India terrorists such as Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed. Despite New Delhi handing over several dossiers to Islamabad on Saeed's involvement in the 26/11 attack, the latter remains a free Pakistani citizen.

 

America's Go-To Man in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province: David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 12, 2013—Thousands of desperately poor Afghans in this remote province rely on Matiullah for charity and protection. And his presence here is equally important to the U.S. military, which views Oruzgan as a linchpin in southern Afghanistan. It relies on Matiullah to support a U.S. special forces team and to secure the crucial supply road from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt, the provincial capital.

 

Pakistan Bombings: Militancy is a Many-Headed Beast Here: Samira Shackle, The Guardian, Jan. 11, 2013—Bomb attacks are the background music to life in Pakistan. A blast somewhere in the country is reported nearly every day, and it is easy to become inured to it. After several months living there, I found myself thinking, as many others do: "Only three people died, it wasn't a bad one."

 

Despite Fears of Afghan Collapse, U.S. May Pull All Troops By 2014: Robert Burns, National Post, Jan 9, 2013—The Obama administration says it might leave no troops in Afghanistan after December 2014, an option that defies the Pentagon’s view that thousands of troops may be needed to contain al-Qaeda and to strengthen Afghan forces.

 

 

 

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