Thursday, September 29, 2016

Uri Attack: India Responds

Eleven days after Pakistan-backed terrorists owing allegiance to the Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked the 12 Infantry Brigade HQ at Uri, the Indian Army struck back. According to Indian Army sources, personnel of the Special Forces were para (or heli)-dropped across the Line of Control (LoC). Five terror launch pads were destroyed by the SF personnel. This was not only a surgical strike but a pre-emptive strike as well, as precise information was available that terrorists were being assembled for infiltration across the LoC for carrying out attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere. The operation was meticulously planned post-Uri and perfectly executed by the Special Forces.

The Special Forces operation on terror launch pads lasted from 12:30 am to 4:30 am, the location was between 500 meters to 2 Km across the LoC, news agency ANI reported.

The announcement of the sudden action by the army to target terrorists was made by the Director General Military Operations Lt Gen Ranveer Singh at a hurriedly called news conference during which external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup was also present.

Gen Singh said India shared with Pakistani army details of the surgical strikes which followed “very specific information” that terrorists were positioning themselves in the launch pads along the LoC.

Based on specific intelligence input of terror groups ready to infiltrate into India and carry out terror attacks, Army conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads at the LoC on the night of 28th and early hours of 29th. The strikes were carried out in Bhimber, Hotspring, Kel & Lipa sectors, on Pakistan's side of the LoC. Indian commandos entered three kilometres across the Line of Control to conduct the 'surgical / pre-emptive strikes. 5 terror launch pads were destroyed during the surgical strike. According to media reports about 35 terrorists and 9 Pak Army personnel were killed in the operation.

The strikes seemed to have been carried out by the elite para commandos (most probably units from 4 Para and 9 Para) who were heli-dropped two to three kilometers deep into Pak-occupied territory and were backed by ground troops. The insertion and exfiltration of the commandos was executed flawlessly. The unit executing the strikes had speed, surprise, stealth and superior tactics the four ‘Ss’ required for a successful surgical strike. The raiding party also had accurate and real time intelligence through human sources to inflict casualties and damage on the enemy. It is learnt that the targets were kept under close surveillance (probably through the use of UAV or HUMINT) for nearly a week before the strikes.

The Pioneer in its web edition dated 21st September 2016 had reported that one battalion each of 4 Para and 9 Para Special Forces trained for anti-terrorist operations had been asked to stand in operational readiness till further orders, indicating that the Centre has not ruled out retaliatory action for the Pakistan-sponsored attack. 

The new Indian Express too in its web edition dated 25th September 2016 had reported that besides movement of infantry brigades, multiple teams of elite Special Forces (SF) were camping at strategic locations. Sources claimed that troops from commando units like 2, 4 and 9 Para SF were gearing up on the Line of Control (LoC), as they were trained in unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance and to carry out cross-border surgical strikes. The units of 4 Para and 9 Para were probably assigned the task to take out the launch pads across the LoC on 29th September 2016.

This author has in the past urged that India was well within its right under international law to respond militarily by resorting to measures in the form of "Reprisals". The relevant extracts from two older posts are reproduced herein:

The military option that India must consider is not war but measures short of war. Reprisal, for instance, under such special and compelling circumstances could be considered legitimate and justified under international law. “A reprisal is an act of SELF-HELP… by the injured state, responding—after an unsatisfied demand—to an act contrary to international law committed by the offending state….Its object is to effect REPARATION from the offending state for the offense or a return to legality by the avoidance of further offenses." [Naulilaa Case (Portugal v. Germany), 2 UN Reports Of International Arbitral Awards 1012 (Portuguese-German Mixed Arbitral Tribunal, 1928)] A reprisal is a form of self defense and can only be used as a last resort; it must be executed with the view of restoring a sense of equilibrium in international relations and ensuring future compliance with legal norms.

What are the options available to India? 

India should retaliate at a time and place of its choosing. India under international law is entitled to take action in the form of reprisals. The Indian Army’s Special Forces have the means and capability to initiate an operation similar to the one carried out by Pakistan. However, more important is that the Army needs to have a contingency plan to carry out limited cross-border strikes at regular intervals to deter the enemy from engaging in such adventures. Of course, the essential pre-requisite for sanctioning a one-off military operation in retaliation or regular strikes as and by way of deterrence is the existence of a strong political will and the unqualified support of the political leadership.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Uri Attack - Pakistan's Ongoing War Against India

In consonance with its Kashmir policy and use of terror as an instrument of state policy, Pakistan backed  terrorists owing allegiance to the Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked an army installation in Kashmir inflicting heavy casualties. The Indian state's intransigence has only emboldened Pakistan to devise new ways of bleeding India.

In the wee hours of Sunday 18th September 2016, a group of four heavily armed fedayeen attackers belonging to the Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) struck at the headquarters of the 12 Infantry Brigade at Uri and killed 17 army personnel belonging to the 10 Dogra and 6 Bihar Regiments. (Uri is a town on the river Jhelum located in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir). After a fierce gunfight lasting more than three hours all the four attackers were neutralized. 

The JeM is a Pakistan funded and ISI-trained terror outfit whose main objective is to carry out attacks against high-value and high security Indian targets. JeM primarily attacks Indian police forces and other government targets, including army bases, camps, and public places in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. This is the same group which had carried out an attack on Indian Parliament in 2001 and earlier in April 2000 it was responsible for the suicide bombing outside the Indian Army’s 15 Corp headquarters in Badami Bagh. The group receives funds through charitable foundations such as the Pak-based Al Rashid Trust, (ART) a trust fund recognized by the U.S. as a financial facilitator of terrorists for raising funds for Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001.

A map recovered by the army personnel recovered from the deceased attackers had markings in the Pashtun language and indicated a detailed plan of action. Four AK-47 rifles and four Under Barrel Grenade Launchers along with ammunition were also recovered. Some of the items had Pakistani markings. The Director General of military operations, Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh, said that there was evidence that the attackers belonged to JeM. The map retrieved from the terrorists revealed that they were to kill unarmed troops, then storm a medical aid unit near the brigade administrative block and blow themselves up in the officers' mess. 

Sources said the map deciphered by military experts indicated that the terrorists were drawn from the banned terror group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) that recently started working under Jaish command and calls itself "Guardians of the Prophet". The SSP cadre directly operates under Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar.

According to reports there was specific intelligence input two days earlier that militants were planning to strike army formations close to the Line of Control. Furthermore, Business Standard learns the Uri brigade was given pinpoint intelligence warnings about an impending attack. The intelligence agency had said that three fidayeen squads were launched from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. One of them attacked Uri, another went to Poonch where it was engaged by the security forces, and the third was untraced. 

Indian’s political dispensation has so far failed to take any concrete action against the Pakistanis or the groups funded and backed by Pakistan till date, notwithstanding the regular terror strikes carried out on Indian soil. India has been unable to muster the political resolve to hit Pak where it hurts most. India’s action has largely been confined to rhetoric and soft options such as economic sanctions or boycott or diplomatic isolation. These actions in the past have not deterred Pakistan or its thugs; these have been mere pinpricks. Pakistan will be deterred only if its very existence is threatened. In order to hit Pakistan effectively, India will have to revise its “No first use” nuclear doctrine and declare that India will respond in a manner that it deems appropriate including a first use of nuclear weapons depending on the exigency. With a revised nuclear doctrine, India can and should counter Pakistan, if need be militarily.

Time and again this blog has called for targeting Pakistanis and Pakistani strategic and commercial interests world-wide. In fact, when in 2008, Pak-backed terror groups attacked and destroyed the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Pakistani missions should have been targeted in retaliation. India failed to respond effectively and the result was Mumbai 26/11. The then National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, according to an article appearing in The Hindu, called for action. “Talk-talk is better than fight-fight,” he said, “but it hasn’t worked. I think we need to pay back in the same coin.” 

Mr. Narayanan, intelligence officers serving at the time recall, authorised India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to begin a quiet dialogue on doing just that with its Afghan counterparts. It found a willing partner in Amrullah Saleh, the then head of the Riyasat-e Amniyat-e Milli, or the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Following the 26/11 strike, the officials said, RAW even explored the prospect of targeting Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, using NDS’ assets inside jihadist groups hostile to the Pakistan Army. India’s intelligence czar, though, never got the political clearance he hoped for. The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained committed to the dialogue process with Pakistan, believing that bomb-for-bomb strikes would increase terrorist violence. In early 2010, foreign service officer Shivshankar Menon replaced Mr. Narayanan as the National Security Adviser, and the doves came to control policy-making. 

“Keep your hands in your pockets,” a senior R&AW official recalls Mr. Menon as telling Afghan desk officers in mid-2010 — effectively putting an end to any hope of tit-for-tat strike.

India must appreciate the harsh reality that this ongoing undeclared war with Pakistan must be fought alone; neither the US nor the Russians can be expected to fight India's war. At best the international community can be expected to extend technological assistance to India. And importantly this war needs to fought on all fronts - political, military, diplomatic and economic. And India hopefully having learned the lessons of 1965 and 1971 would not leave the "business unfinished" in this undeclared war.

A few options that India may consider in the present scenario are:
  • High precision surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) targeting the enemy's logistics and infrastructure. This may result in a certain degree of escalation, which is only to be expected.
  • Air-strikes on Pakistani bases responsible for aiding infiltration of terrorists and Pakistani irregulars.
  • In order to explore the possibility of countering Pak-sponsored and backed terror, Indian security agencies must start developing covert action capabilities in Pakistan and elsewhere to effectively strike at Pakistani interests. Options such as covert action cannot be discussed in great detail in blogs and news studios given the deniable nature of the acts. 
  • Targeted killings of military/ISI personnel could be cost effective.
  • Pakistani society is fragile and prone to sectarian violence and India must not hesitate to exploit this weakness. 
  • India can also abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty on the ground of rebus sic stantibus effectively crippling Pakistan’s sustenance.
  • Normal trade and bus and train services between India and Pakistan may also be suspended. This action would be more cosmetic and symbolic.
It must be reiterated that should India fail to act ‘decisively’ meaning thereby using the hard power options, India as a state would have failed in discharging its primary role, namely, of protecting and defending its territorial integrity and sovereignty and the international community will cease to take India seriously as a dominant power.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Terror Attacks in Germany - A Wake-up Call for Merkel

Having opened the doors to migrants from conflict zones particularly Syria and Iraq, terror attacks were only inevitable. It is anybody's guess how the people of Germany would react to the spate of attacks and what steps the German government takes to thwart future attacks.

Munich Olympia Mall Shooting
After about 44 years, terror re-visited Munich. In September 1972, Palestinian gunmen belonging to the Black September Organisation killed 11 Israeli athletes who were staying in the Olympic Village at Munich.  On 22 July 2016, an 18-year-old German of Iranian descent Ali David Sonboly opened fire in the vicinity of the Olympia Shopping Mall (Olympia-Einkaufszentrum, OEZ) in the Moosach district of Munich. Incidentally the Munich mall is near the stadium for the 1972 Olympics and the athletes' village. The German police said that at least 9 people were killed in the shooting that was carried out by a lone gunman who is then reported to have committed suicide around 1 kilometre from the scene of the attack. The shooting began in Hanauer Straße and then shifted to the Riesstraße — streets close to the Olympia shopping center — before moving into the mall itself shortly before 6 p.m., according to the official Facebook page of the Munich police. 

The shooter had lived in Munich for at least two years. Munich police chief Hubertus Andra told a press conference it was “totally unclear” whether the incident was an act of terror, though eye witnesses reported that the shooter screamed “Allahu Akbar” while firing.

Twenty-one people, including several children, were taken to the hospital. Police reported that 16 were injured and three were in a critical condition.

The Würzburg Attack

The attack came just days after a 17-year-old asylum seeker Muhammad Riyad went on a rampage with an axe and a knife on a train on Monday near Würzburg, also in Bavaria, injuring five people before being shot dead by the police.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had said that assailant was believed to be a "lone wolf" who appeared to have been "inspired" by Islamic State group but was not a member of the jihadist network.

The train attack triggered calls by some politicians to impose an upper limit on the number of refugees coming into Germany, which accepted a record 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year, many through Bavaria.

On 24th July 2016, a knife-wielding attacker sparked panic, after killing a woman near a Turkish fast-food kiosk in downtown Reutlingen, according to German mass-circulation newspaper "Bild".

Five people were reportedly wounded in the attack and brought to the hospital. A car driver spotted the attacker running away from the scene and hit him with his vehicle, allowing police to grab hold of the suspect and make an arrest, according to a police spokesman cited by the DPA news agency. Police stated that the suspect was a 21-year-old male refugee from Syria known to authorities for previous acts of violence.

Ansbach Bombing

On the night of 24th July 2016, a 27-year-old Syrian man who had been denied asylum in Germany a year ago died when a bomb he was carrying exploded outside a music festival in Ansbach, Germany. Twelve people were wounded in the attack. Bavaria interior minister Joachim Herrmann said the man, carrying a backpack, had apparently been denied entry to the Ansbach Open music festival shortly before the explosion. A large area around the site of the explosion, in the city of around 40,000 people, was still sealed off hours after it occurred outside a restaurant called Eugens Weinstube. More than 2,000 people were evacuated from the festival after the explosion, police said. The bomber was known to police in Ansbach for previous offenses, including drug crimes, Herrmann said. He had also twice attempted suicide before the bombing. 

Ansbach is home to a US army base and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade with around 5,000 members of the military living there along with civilians, contractors and retirees. There are three military installations in the Ansbach area, according to the garrison's website. A spokesman at the base said the base had no information about the explosion.

[Update: BBC - The Syrian man who blew himself up in Ansbach, Germany, on Sunday made a video pledging allegiance to the leader of so-called Islamic State, Bavaria's interior minister says.

Joachim Hermann said two phones, multiple SIM cards and a laptop were found with the body of the 27-year-old asylum seeker or at his accommodation.

The man threatened a "revenge attack" on Germans in the video, he said.

IS has claimed it was behind the attack and the Syrian was an IS "soldier".

The attacker announced in the video "in the name of Allah that he pledged allegiance to [IS chief] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi... and announced an act of revenge against Germans because they were standing in the way of Islam," Mr Hermann said.

Further bomb-making equipment was found at the asylum seeker accommodation where the man was living, including a fuel canister, hydrogen peroxide and batteries]. 

The mall shooting occurred just eight days after 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a truck to mow down 84 people, including children, after a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice, the third major attack on French soil in the past 18 months.

In March 2016, Islamic State claimed suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station that left 32 people dead.

In May, a mentally unstable 27-year-old man carried out a knife attack on a regional train in Bavaria, killing one person and injuring three others.

Tensions between native and immigrant Germans have been on the rise since Germany accepted nearly one million refugees during last year's migrant crisis, in which Bavaria was on the front line.

Although it has been France and Belgium that have been hit by recent atrocities, Germany shares many of the same vulnerabilities.

Just like France and Belgium, Germany has seen significant numbers of its residents join the flow of international jihadists to Iraq and Syria. The most recent figures estimate more than 700 men and women from the country may have left to join extremist groups such as Islamic State and many are likely to have later returned home.

Last month, the German justice ministry admitted the federal prosecutor was conducting 120 investigations into more than 180 suspects and defendants "in connection with the Syrian civil war for their membership or support of a terrorist organisation".

Germany's links to Islamist terrorism go back decades, long before the current troubles.

A small group of radical Middle Eastern Islamists formed in the 1990s known as the Hamburg cell produced three of the 9/11 hijackers.

More recent incidents have included an alleged plot by four suspected Islamic State members last month to launch suicide bombings in the city of Dusseldorf. 

Intelligence agents last year reportedly foiled a plot to detonate three bombs inside a Hanover football stadium during an international friendly.

But social tensions arising from the large influx of refugees have also fuelled a sharp rise in popularity for extreme and sometimes violent far-Right groups.

The police and the German government have repeatedly claimed that except for the July 18 axe attack, none of the other attacks bore any signs of connections with the Islamic State or any other terrorist groups. The Munich shooter apparently had a history of mental illness. However the Syrian responsible for the machete attack in Reutlingen did not have any psychiatric problem. The question that must logically follow is why is that in most of the recent attacks that have taken place in Europe and in Germany, the attackers or the accomplices have always been Muslims either from North Africa or the Middle East and followers of the radical Salafi Islam propagated by the ISIS. Are the governments in the West blind to this fact? Did they try to determine how and where the attackers were radicalized? 

The answer to this question partially lies in the report published in the German daily newspaper "Die Welt" wherein the German Criminal Police Office (BKA) reported a significant increase in Islamist threats. The agency tracked almost 500 threats in the past year. It had tracked 497 instances of "threats" or individuals with extremist views who could be suspected of carrying out terrorist attacks. The agency added that an additional 339 Islamists were also being tracked as "relevant persons," or individuals who may assist and sympathize with terrorist causes.

The report said that the development marked a significant increase from numbers dating back to January 2015, when only 270 potentially violent Islamist individuals were registered in Germany.

Austria's domestic intelligence agency also reported that the number of suspected Islamists in the country had risen, citing increased activity within the "Muslim Brotherhood" terrorist group. The "Kleine Zeitung" daily newspaper examined a particular increase in the state of Styria.

Focus must be on Radical Islam and not Islamophobia

The editor-in-chief of the French satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo," Gerard Biard, said that too much tolerance was partly to blame for the rise in Islamism across Europe, accusing the political left of being complicit. He said it was "scandalous" that leftwing movements were more interested in defending "Muslims wearing the Burka than in equal pay."

"Islamic propaganda has managed to convince us that criticizing Islamism equates to criticizing Islam itself and therefore qualifies as racism," Biard wrote in a speech cited in Berlin.

European governments need to start acknowledging the fact that they have made a colossal blunder by allowing all and sundry to enter Europe under the garb of refugees. Strangely criminals, drug peddlers and terrorists have made their way to Europe, thanks largely to Angela Merkel’s myopic policy. They need to further acknowledge that these so-called ‘refugees’ pose a very serious threat to European security and its liberal values and freedom. The Ansbach bomber was a Syrian refugee whose application for asylum was rejected, the machete-wielding Syrian who killed a pregnant woman at Reutlingen and the axe wielding teen Muhammad Riyad who attacked passengers at Würzburg will do little to convince Germans that ‘refugees’ don’t pose a serious security risk. Trying to pass off every terror attack as a hate crime or the attacker/s had history of mental illness will undermine West’s war against the ISIS inspired terror attacks at home. (It is reported that from the Orlando shooter to the Nice attacker Bouhlel and the Ansbach bomber had mental problems. Some analysts such as Max Abrahms have termed them "loon-wolves). Europe must start focusing on the domestic jihadi threat posed by its own citizens and those who have entered the continent posing as refugees and stop worrying about Islamophobia.  

 The biggest threat to Europe is radical Islam, not Islamophobia.