Wednesday, December 2, 2009



An alert official of the Pakistani naval intelligence in plain clothes and a naval security guard in uniform deployed outside the building of the Pakistan Navy Headquarters in Islamabad prevented what could have been a major terrorist strike against the Naval Headquarters by an unidentified suicide bomber on December 2,2009. Spotting a suspicious-looking individual outside the NHQ, they stopped him and searched him. He turned out to be a suicide bomber wearing a concealed suicide vest. However, they could not prevent him from activating the explosive device in the vest.One person was killed on the spot and another succumbed to his injuries later.

2. This was the second jihadi terrorist attack on a naval target since the commando raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007. The Lal Masjid raid made the Pakistani Taliban known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) turn against the Pakistani security forces.Since July 2007, there have been many suicide and suicidal attacks on personnel of the Armed Forces and the police----not only in the tribal areas, but also in non-tribal areas , including in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and in heavily guarded cantonments.

3.The first attack on a naval establishment took place on March 4, 2008. Two unidentified suicide bombers, operating in tandem, attacked the prestigious Naval War College located in a high security area of Lahore. They were both on motor-cycles. One of them rammed his motor-cycle against the security gate at the rear of the building breaking it open. The other drove through this opening into the parking area and blew himself up. Their target was the naval institution and not any particular individual or individuals inside. They wanted to demonstrate their ability to penetrate the campus and cause damage. Six persons were killed--- one of them a naval officer, three members of the security guards at the gate and the two suicide bombers.

4.The Pakistan Navy has had no role to play in the operations in the Lal Masjid, the FATA ( Federally-Administered Tribal Areas) and Swat.However,the logistic supplies for the NATO forces are brought to the Karachi port, unloaded there under the protection of the Pakistani Navy and then transported to Afghanistan by trucks. While the Pakistani Army and Air Force have no operational role to play in the US-led military operations in the Afghan territory against Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban, the Pakistani Navy is a member of the US-led international naval force which patrols the seas to the west of Pakistan to prevent any hostile activity which could hamper the operations in Afghan territory. The Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, established near the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, comprise naval forces from France, Germany, Italy, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The task force conducts maritime security operations (MSO) in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. The leadership of the Task Force is rotated amongst the participating navies. A Pakistani naval officer has been commanding it off and on when the turn of the Pakistan Navy comes.

5.During the election campaign of 2008, one of the issues raised by Mr. Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister, was the need to re-examine the implications of the US declaring Pakistan a non-NATO ally. He apparently felt that this declaration was meant to facilitate the involvement of the Pakistani Navy in the Afghanistan-related joint naval operations of the NATO and wanted a re-think on it. He has not been raising this issue in recent months. The TTP has not raised this issue either.( 3-12-09)

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



President Barack Obama's Af-Pak policy ----Mark 2 as unveiled by him in his address to US military officer cadets at West Point on December 2,2009, has been marked by critical words for the Afghan Government and soft words for the rulers of Pakistan----- as if evils such as corruption, poor governance, narcotics production and lack of accountability are confined only to Afghanistan and one does not find these evils in Pakistan.

2. It is these evils long tolerated by successive US administrations that have landed Pakistan in the situation in which it finds itself today----- a breeding ground of extremism and sectarianism of every hue. The cancer of extermism and jihadi terrorism did not spread to Pakistan from Afghanistan. It spread from the madrasas of Pakistan to Afghanistan with the encouragement and often at the instance of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishments. The root of this cancer is in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan. The surgery has to start in Pakistan. This harsh reality has been played down in his address.

3. The Taliban, which nourished Al Qaeda and gave it shelter in Afghan territory, was born in Pakistani territory in 1994. Al Qaeda and the leadership of the Afgan Taliban escaped defeat by the US forces post-9/11 by taking shelter in Pakistani territory----- Al Qaeda in the North Waziristan area of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Neo Taliban headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar in the Quetta area of Balochistan.

4. From there, the surviving senior cadres of the two organisations moved to sanctuaries in the non-tribal areas. A recent report of the "Washington Times" has quoted retired US intelligence sources as saying that Mulla Omar and other leaders of the Neo Taliban have shifted to the Karachi area from the Quetta area to escape attacks by US drone (pilotless) planes in the tribal areas.

5. Many senior Al Qaeda leaders operated from the non-tribal areas of Pakistan----some even before 9/11. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) was reported to have orchestrated the 9/11 strikes in the US from Karachi from where he shifted to Quetta and then to Rawalpindi, where he was ultimately arrested. Abu Zubaidah was caught in Faislabad in Punjab and Ramzi Binalshib in Karachi. One should not be surprised if it ultimately turns out that Osama bin Laden and his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri have also been sheltered in the non-tribal areas and that is why the US has not been able to get at them so far despite offers of huge rewards and the Drone strikes.

6. The command and control of both the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda are now located in Pakistani territory. Obama said in his address at West Point: "Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future. ...... We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear."

7. Strong words regarding the safehavens for terrorists in Pakistan. As in the past, strong words do not presage strong action to force Pakistan to destroy those safehavens.The Pakistani military operations in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan are meant to counter a threat to Pakistan's internal security from indigenous elements. They are not directed against the external activities of Al Qaeda. Nor are they directed towards facilitating the military operations of the NATO forces and the Afghan National Army in Afghan territory. The safehavens of organisations, which are seen as an asset and not as a threat to Pakistan, are being shifted from place to place to escape detection and action by the US.

8. If Obama is serious about wanting to start withdrawing from Afghanistan in dignity and honour by the middle of 2011, he has only two options. Either force the Pakistani rulers to act against the safehavens whether they are located in tribal or non-tribal areas or act against them with available US capabilities. The Obama Administration like its predecessor lacks the political will to do so.

9. Seeking partnership with a state perpetrator of terrorism is not the way of ending it. That is what Obama has done in his address. That is why his revised Af-Pak policy is unlikely to meet the objectives which he has set for the US and other NATO countries. Obama's West Point address contains the seeds of its pre-destined failure. (2-12-09)

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