Friday, January 1, 2010



When Robert Gates, the present US Defence Secretary, was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), George Bush, the then President (1988-92), had visited the CIA headquarters and addressed its officers. In his speech welcoming the President, Gates described the CIA officers as risk-takers and not risk-seekers. This quote from his welcome address is inscribed at the entrance to the CIA building to inspire and motivate future entrants to the CIA.

2. The Soviet, Russian and West European intelligence agencies too have the reputation of being risk-takers. A risk-taking external intelligence agency posts its officers for intelligence collection in remote areas and danger spots and the officers willingly go to such places. Risk-avoiding agencies keep their officers confined to the safe precincts of diplomatic and consular missions, where the risks faced are minimal.

3. The best professionals of the CIA are posted in areas of conflict and not in areas of comfort. There is never a shortage of volunteers to serve in areas of conflict. They are generally attached to US military units deployed in such areas and use the protection provided by such units to do their intelligence collection and special operations work. The CIA keeps rotating them frequently so that its officers are not required to serve in dangerous areas for a long time. The officers, who volunteer for such posts, also have the confidence that their Agency will look after their families during their absence from the US and will not keep them in dangerous areas for too long.

4. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has published a collation of CIA officers who were known to have been killed since 1965 in the performance of their duty. A total of 35 were killed---two in Washington DC and the remaining 33 abroad. The two in Washington DC were killed outside the CIA headquarters in January,1993, by a disgruntled Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi. He had allegedly worked for the CIA against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s and had some grievances relating to his rehabilitation after the Soviet withdrawal. He went to the entrance of the CIA headquarters and indiscriminately opened fire as the staff were coming to work in the morning and then managed to escape to Pakistan. He was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and extradited to the US. He was sentenced to death by a US court. The sentence was carried out in the US and the body returned to his relatives for burial. He was given a heroes’ burial in his home village by the local Pakistanis.

5. Of the 33 CIA personnel who were killed abroad while performing their duty since 1965, two were the staff of a contractor working for the CIA in Afghanistan and the remaining 31 were regular members of the staff of the Agency. Since 1965, the CIA has suffered the largest number of fatalities in Afghanistan---- a total of 11, nine of them regular members of its staff and the remaining two employees of a CIA contractor. The two deaths in Washington DC were also Afghanistan-related. Thus, the CIA’s role in Afghanistan has resulted in the deaths 13 of the 35 officers killed since 1965.

6.Next to Afghanistan, duties in the Lebanon resulted in the death of nine officers in the 1980s, including that of the then station chief of the CIA in Beirut. The war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the deaths of seven officers. The remaining six officers were killed in a plane crash in Africa while allegedly helping the anti-communist insurgents in Angola. Surprisingly, there are no known fatalities incurred by the CIA in Iraq since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

7. The absence of CIA fatalities in Iraq and the large number of fatalities incurred by the CIA in Afghanistan could be attributed to the following reasons:

(a). The CIA personnel posted in Iraq totally depend on the US forces for their physical security while performing their duties. They do not depend on Iraqi personnel. In Afghanistan, they depend largely on American personnel, but there is also a limited involvement of Afghan personnel in protecting them.

(b).In Iraq, the intelligence agencies of the US Defence Department play a more active role in intelligence collection and special operations. The casualties incurred in Iraq are essentially those of the agencies of the Pentagon. In Afghanistan, CIA officers play a very active role in intelligence collection and in facilitating the unmanned Drone strikes in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.

( c ). Individual anti-US officers of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which has had a long history of co-operation with the CIA, know how to identify CIA officers working clandestinely under cover. They expose their identity to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

8. The latest incident in the Khost area of Afghanistan involving the death of seven CIA officers at the hands of an Afghan suicide bomber would be a major loss to the CIA at a critical time in the “war” against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The CIA officers succeeding them would have to start literally from the scratch in building up a new network of contacts. The contacts of the officers, who have been killed, would now be under a question mark due to suspicion regarding the role of any of them in facilitating the suicide bombing.
( 2-1-10)

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



There is a Tamil saying: “chozhiyan kudumi summa aadathu.”

Roughly paraphrased, it means: “ If one finds a Brahmin’s tuft moving up and down, one should not presume it must be due to the breeze. There could be a hidden reason for it. One should look deeper.”

I was reminded of this saying on New Year’s Day as I noticed that the Times of India has started an Indians-Pakistanis bhai bhai ( Indians and Pakistanis Are Brothers) campaign under the theme “Aman Ki Asha” ( The Desire For Peace) in association with the Jang group of Pakistan.

The desire for peace one can understand.

The desire for closer people-to-people contacts one can equally understand , but the sudden love of the Times of India for the Jang group one cannot.

If the TOI had joined hands with the Dawn group of Karachi, that would have made some sense. No other media group of Pakistan enjoys as much respect among the people of Pakistan and in the international community as the Dawn group does.

But, no other media group of Pakistan has been as much controversial and as money-minded as the Jang group has been over the years.

And no other media group of Pakistan has been more opportunistic in its editorial policies than the Jang group.

It is alleged in Pakistan: Look where the money is. One will find Jang there.

The sudden love of the TOI for Pakistan and the Jang group is as mysterious as the sudden love of L.K.Advani for Mohammad Ali Jinnah some years ago and as the sudden admiration of Jaswant Singh for Jinnah last year.

Nobody can question the ardent wish of the TOI leadership for peace with Pakistan.

We all want peace with Pakistan.

We all like the people of Pakistan---- whether they are Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochs, Seraikis or Pashtuns.

As I had pointed out in an article on India’s relations with Pakistan and China sometime ago, the civil societies of India and Pakistan have greater positive vibrations for each other than the civil societies of India and China.

And yet there has never been genuine peace between India and Pakistan.

What is the reason?

Not Kashmir.

Not Balochistan.

Not the Lashksar-e-Toiba and the myriad terrorist organizations to which the State and civil society of Pakistan have given birth.

Barring China, no other country in the world thinks and talks well of Pakistan and its people.

No other country in the world triggers more negative vibrations in the hearts and minds of people than Pakistan.

There are various reasons for it.

Because of the distorted interpretations of Islam in Pakistan ever since it was born in 1947. One does not come across such distorted interpretations anywhere else in the Ummah.

Because of the cruelty and barbarity which have come to be associated with Islam in Pakistan. One does not come across such cruelty and barbarity anywhere else in the Ummah.

Because of the perfidious nature of the Pakistani statecraft.

Because of so many other reasons.

Why all the jihadi terrorists of the world flock to Pakistan?

Not merely because of its sanctuaries.

Not merely because of the sponsorship of the ISI.

It is also because irrational individuals with a distorted mindset find themselves more comfortable in Pakistan than anywhere else in the Ummah.

One must call a spade a spade.

One must face the truth.

To point out all this does not mean one wishes ill of Pakistan and wants it to perish.

Quite the contrary.

The real well-wishers of Pakistan and its people are those who have the honesty and courage to draw attention to the negative features of Pakistan and call on the Pakistani society to rid themselves of these features.

We all want good relations with Pakistan and its people.

The TOI-Jang Bhai Bhai is not the way of doing it.

It has to be done through honest debate promoted and moderated by people, who will not be suspected of having any ulterior interest in their sudden-found leave for Aman between the two countries.( 1-1-10)

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