Monday, May 10, 2010




The US is faced with diminishing options in its efforts to neutralise Al Qaeda, the Talibans and other terrorist organisations operating from North Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. Any successful terrorist strike in the US Homeland would most probably originate from this area----whether it be one involving conventional modus operandi or one involving the use of weapons of mass destruction material.

2. So long as the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory----- particularly in North Waziristan which has been and which will continue to be the launching pad of strikes directed at the US---- is not neutralised once and for all, the US cannot be free of the fear of the terrorists succeeding one day.

3. The present US operations in North Waziristan are focussed on the neutralisation of senior and middle level leaders of Al Qaeda and other organisations operating from sanctuaries in this area. The Drone (pilotless plane) strikes on their hide-outs and vehicular movements have not been without success, but most of those killed were easily replaceable.

4. But eliminating the leaders alone will not be adequate. It is equally necessary to destroy their infrastructure. The damage suffered by the terrorist infrastructure from the Drone strikes has been insignificant. The ground-based infrastructure can be destroyed only through ground operations---- classical or covert--- and Cruise missile strikes. Predator strikes from Drones will not destroy infrastructure.

5. Ground-based operations---- whether of the hit and run variety or the hit and stay kind--- would need the involvement of ground troops of the US or Pakistan or both. Involvement of US troops in ground-based operations, whether alone or in tandem with Pakistani troops, could prove messy and counter-productive. The Pakistani Army is reluctant to undertake any operations in this area because of its dependence on the non-Al Qaeda groups based in this area such as the Haqqani network, the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri, the Punjabi Taliban groups etc for advancing its own strategic agenda against India and Afghanistan.

6. Having followed since 9/11 a policy of incentives for action and nothing but incentives with no disincentives for inaction,the US finds itself helpless to counter Pakistani inaction. Its policy is inhibited by the fear that any punitive action against Pakistan might end even the inadequate co-operation that it has presently been getting from Pakistan.

7. If the US is not able to use its ground forces and is reluctant to force Pakistan to use its forces through appropriate disincentives if it does not do so, it has only one alternative left----encourage the Afghan Army and special forces to undertake covert actions in North Waziristan directed against the infrastructure. This is an option worth exploring even if the chances for success appear low at present. The Afghan elements to be used for covert actions should be appropriately trained and equipped.

8. Cruise missile attacks can be more effective against infrastructure than Predator strikes from Drones if those are sustained and without respite. The civilian casualties may go up, but the risk has to be faced in the absence of other alternatives. The Cruise missile attacks of 1998 against Al Qaeda's training infrastructure were ineffective because it was an one-shot affair. To be effective, they have to be sustained.

9. Instead of continuing to depend only on Drone strikes, the US should adopt a three-pronged strategy of a sustained campaign involving the use of Drones, Cruise missiles and the Afghan covert action forces. ( 10-5-10)

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


Divine said...

What sort of infrastructure are we talking about? The only infrastructure we've seen are those tunneled compounds linked to others houses.
I am sure that any training compound can be easily replaced.
Cruise missiles are terribly expensive, and long term use is something that even the US will balk at. Besides there is nothing as instant as a predator with a hellfire.

Perhaps there are other options the US has. Surveillance of the areas using drones and agents on the ground, and then air strikes on the said compounds.

Looking at the way the US has its hands tied, somehow is reminiscent of the inaction India's own government has on the terror infrastructure in Pakistan. Although the US has the satisfaction of firing hellfires and Pakistan prostrating before it every time the US thunders.

ambi said...


This is another example of what I mentioned in one of my comments. That’s the difference between a strategic mind & a civilian mind. A strategic mind thinks & works absolutely differently then a civilian mind.

A civilian, how ever powerful & learned he is, will always loose an edge to a mind which is strategic. Only a strategic mind, like a military or intelligence officer can communicate with security states like Pakistan or PRC effectively in the language these countries understand.

One can see how Kayani fooled & trapped Americans in his trap & Hillary & Obama the great, came walking in it. Kudos to kayani. He really played his cards well.

India was the only country & to some extent Afghanistan, which openly pointed fingers at Pakistan & said that Pakistani state is using terrorism as a foreign policy. By the way it is an open secret.

‘No talks with Pakistan are possible till it punishes those who were behind 26.11 attack’ was a really a great card in our hand. A Strategic mind ld never have lost it for anything, because he know that he can paralyze the whole Pakistani state with this single line. But as usual a civilian mind lost an edge to Pak. Pakistani state was under immense pressure & was really vulnerable under this line. Because, India was directly pointing fingers directly at Islamabad. To prove their innocence was the responsibility (which they could never have).

Pakistan convinced US to pressurize India for agreeing to talks & Barack, foolishly enough bullied India to drop the line. The net result is this that, Islamabad has got back his legitimacy & respect (which it had lost after barbaric 26.11attack), which it doesn’t deserve in the comity of the civilized states. Now as the US has validated its legitimacy, Pak’s hands are clean now. Now Pak army can easily kick the ass of US the way it wants & there is little that US can do. Foolishly enough Barack has taken off all the pressure of the Pak Army.

Now if Hillary tries to point finger at Pak Army, Kayani is going to tell her that ‘oh honey, wasn’t it just you who told the world that Pakistani state & its security establishment has no links with terrorists organizations now & that they are clean. & that Pak is cooperating with us & that Pak army is giving great sacrifices on WOT. Then just trust us honey as you have said, we are really clean, & we ll fight them in our own convenience. Just take this list of our demands that we have & see to it that we ll get them as earliest. & u don’t need to send your boys in North Waziristan Cause as you only have declared to the world just couple of weeks back that we are up to our job& we have break the back of terrorists. Oh & don’t forget to give our warm regards to Pre. Barack Obama. We Pakistanis love him & Americans ‘

Stupid! Stupid! Barack. He has made Americans more vulnerable & insecure, foolishly enough he has taken of all pressure from Pak Army & state, so they are free again to play their games. Only this time America is also a target of it.

Our civilians shld learn right lessons from this, &; leave dealing With Pak & PRC to our strategic minds, or else they ll always lose an edge to them.