Brigadier FB Ali; the Man Who Removed Yahya Khan

From Dr Hamid Hussain. Brigadier FB Ali had an important role in two big events: the coup against Yahya Khan in Dec 1971 and a planned/imagined coup against Bhutto in 1973.. Details below..

Obituary of an officer & gentleman of a bygone era.

Brigadier Furrukh Bakht Ali

Hamid Hussain

Brigadier F. B. Ali (February 1929 – February 2021) passed away in Canada.  He was one of the last of the generation of Pakistan army officers commissioned right after the independence in 1947.  He was a highly respected officer of Pakistan army. Continue reading “Brigadier FB Ali; the Man Who Removed Yahya Khan”

Clash of two Jats in the Indian army

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Many folks asked me about recent news item about conflict between two senior Indian army officers.  It was simply personality clash & nothing significant.  However, pedigree of both officers and some interesting historical facts were too tempting for the story teller like me.

Regards,

Hamid

Clash of Two Jats

Hamid Hussain

Recently, conflict between General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of South- Western Command (Sapta Shakti) of Indian army Lieutenant General Alok Singh Kler and his Chief of Staff (COS) Lieutenant General Kamal Kumar Repswal became public.  Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General M. M. Naravane ordered a Court of Inquiry (COI) and Respwal was posted out as COS of Eastern Command. The nature of conflict is not clear, but some suggest that it relates to command decisions and administrative matters.  There is no evidence that there was any financial irregularity or moral lapse. Continue reading “Clash of two Jats in the Indian army”

Book Review: The Wellington Experience

Book Review – The Wellington Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Indian Army by Colonel ® David O. Smith

 Hamid Hussain

David Smith’s book The Wellington Experience is a detailed study of Indian army’s prestigious Command & Staff College that trains armed forces officers for higher ranks. This book is based on interviews of American army officers who attended Command and Staff College at Wellington in India spanning over four decades. Foreign Area Officers (FAO) of US army spent a year at Staff College.

Colonel David Smith is familiar with Indian and Pakistan armies in view of his professional background.  He has been a South Asia hand at Pentagon and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for over two decades. In his professional career, he interacted with number of Indian officers and familiar with the terrain.

This study looks at functioning of Staff College and evolution of its curriculum to train Indian armed forces officers for higher ranks. It also looks at professional and social attitudes and threat perceptions of Indian officers.

The major conclusions of the study are conventional thinking, adhering to staff college solutions to problems, lackluster attention to joint operations and ambiguity about China. However, the most crucial finding is lack of understanding of nuclear dimension of future conflicts with Pakistan. This factor has been noted by other observers of Indian army.  In the aftermath of devastating terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008 by Pakistan based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the shocked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked his National Security Advisory Board for options. Ministry of Defence (MOD) Simulation and Wargaming Center suggested a surgical strike on training camps of LeT in Pakistan controlled Kashmir. Prime Minister asked what was the probability of a Pakistani response? The army officer said around 75-80%. Prime Minister then asked what is the probability that these attack-counterattack dynamics leading to Pakistan escalating to nuclear counter-strike? The officer replied about 30%.  Political leadership stopped right there as it was too high a risk.

Smith’s work provides an outside perspective of training of Indian army officers at mid-career level and attitudes of officers.  It is perspective of a little over two dozen American officers who spent only a year at one institution.  It is supplemented with input from US government officials and US Defence Attachés in Delhi.  This is main limitation of the study.  US officials and officers view India and its neighborhood through American security interests while India has a different take on security challenges of its neighborhood.  Despite such limitations, it is a very methodical and in depth evaluation of existing instructional norms and pointing to areas of improvement for training of officers for higher ranks.

This study confirms what many observers of Indian army know that conventional thinking is the bedrock of Indian army culture.  Unorthodox thinking and critical evaluation of existing doctrines is discouraged, and curriculum and training encourage conformism.  It provides a window to otherwise opaque world of Indian military officer corps training.  This study can be valuable if Indian high command sees it as a friendly criticism of weaknesses of an eminent teaching institution.  Dynamic institutions improve by introspection and course correction.

David O. Smith.  The Wellington Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Indian Army (Washington D.C: Stimson Center), 2020

Acknowledgements: Author thanks input from many informed individuals well informed about the subject matter. 

 

Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

24 January 2021

 

Defence Journal, February 2021

Afghan Conundrum II

From Dr Hamid Hussain. As usual, he gives sensible advice, but it is not going to be heeded. On this issue, I think Major Amin is right, there will be a civil war, Pakistan will take sides, PTM will not be reconciled and will instead be further demonized, things will not get better.
I also hope I am wrong. (Omar Ali)

Dr Hamid Hussain’s post follows:

One can only highlight signposts of a complex issue. Following is one such exercise.

Hamid

Pakistan’s Afghan Conundrum

Hamid Hussain

“On earth, it’s hard and heaven is far away”.  Afghan proverb.

 Afghanistan is going through another transition with many uncertainties causing hope and fear.  Pakistan has a long history of involvement in Afghan affairs.  President Donald Trump tweeted on 08 October 2020 that all American troops will be home from Afghanistan by Christmas. This surprised everyone in Washington and Pentagon, State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials were scratching their heads and contemplating how one single tweet has undermined the bargaining position of United States.  This also sent shock waves in General Head Quarters (GHQ) of Pakistan army.  Prime Minister Imran Khan government is not even pretending to have any role in Afghan affairs and has handed the Afghan file to the army.  Imran Khan wrote an op-ed piece for Washington Post pleading Americans not to leave Afghanistan in haste for Pakistan fears it will face all the negative fallout. 

There will be review of Afghan policy with the arrival of new administration in Washington in January 2021. However, domestic issues will suck all the oxygen and it is not likely that new administration will be able to spend significant economic, military and political capital on a side show in Afghanistan. President Trump is now the wild card before President elect Joe Biden takes oath on 20 January 2021.  He can order complete withdrawal of American troops by the end of the year that can make any course correction for new administration very difficult. Pakistan’s hope is that new administration keeps current level of forces and economic lifeline to Afghan government until meaningful progress is made on intra-negotiations front. Continue reading “Afghan Conundrum II”

Book Review: Friendly Fire by Ami Ayalon

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – Friendly Fire by Ami Ayalon

Hamid Hussain

“As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”).”                   
  Mahmoud Darwish

Ami Ayalon’s book is a compilation of an autobiography including his own personal journey from a warrior to a peacemaker and a review of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He narrates his adult life fighting for Israel’s security as naval and internal security officer.  He builds his case to his country men that he is not advocating two state solution as a favor to Palestinians but sees this as the only solution to preserve Israel as a Jewish democratic state.  He fears that continued occupation of Palestinians will end up Israel as ‘a dystopian society that is tyrannical for those under our boots, and toxic and self-defeating for all’.

Ami has the audacity of hope in a very depressing situation.  My own two trips to Israel and Palestinian territories were focused on visiting Crusader era and First World War era landmarks related to Indian army.  However, I interacted with number of Israelis and Palestinians and found hardening of attitudes on both sides.  Tech savvy Israeli youth are focused on advancing their careers and number of young Palestinians making every effort to get away from what to them is a large prison and seek a better life away from their homeland.  Both these groups don’t care much about everyday politics. Israeli society and politics have taken a sharp right turn.  They are using a single verse of Bible in the Book of Genesis 15:18 ‘To your descendants I give this land’ as a property deed for Jewish people and view Palestinians as mere squatters and holders of a stolen property.  If this is the basis of the claim then they have to quote the whole verse that “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates”.   Will they simply be happy with the half of the covenant and not go for the whole inheritance from Nile to Euphrates?

Palestinians are rapidly losing the hope of a two state solution in view of expanding Jewish settlements and rest of the Arab world moving on with their lives.  This impasse has given rise to many trends, but two prominent ones are two extremes of a single state where they will try to get their rights based on universal democratic principles and the other extreme of a continued war until final victory over Jews.

In 1981, when Ami was attending a course at US Naval War College, a Pakistani Colonel approached him and told him that ‘Don’t permit the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to become a contest between Judaism and Islam.  Don’t lift the lid off that Pandora’s box.  We can live with Israel, and your fight with the Palestinians is of no interest to Pakistan.  Just don’t fool around with the Islamic holy sites or use religion to justify your claims.  That would tear apart the entire world”.  Thirty years later, Ami saw both sides taking refuge in religion from their fears. As head of Shin Bet, for the first time, Ami had to run informants among hardline religious settlers and haul them in for interrogation.  Ami has understood this dilemma that ‘the way we understand our history is the barrier to a real compromise because it controls our actions and fears, and therefore our future”.  The religious right of Jews and Muslims are thumping their scriptures to claim holy land.  Jewish Rabbis and Muslim Imams are arguing about who are the chosen people of the Lord and resigned to the coming Armageddon.  I reflected on these claims when I was visiting Megiddo; the place where this Armageddon is supposed to take place.

Ami is not a leftist or a peacenik.  He is a realist who is willing to sit with opponents whether right wing religious fellow Israelis or Palestinians to understand their point of view.  He comes on the peace table with stellar credentials.  His whole life was spent as a warrior.  He was a naval commando and commanded elite naval commando force Flotilla 13, served as chief of Israeli navy and head of internal security Shabak (Shin Bet).  Later, in pursue of peace, he joined politics and became member of Israeli parliament Knesset.

He brings hope to his people as well as Palestinians.  He is not alone in this endeavor. In 2012, he helped Israeli documentary film maker Dror Moreh that was considered as coup when five former Shin Bet heads sat in front of camera and reviewed the policies of internal security.  They concluded that continued occupation of Palestinian territories was bad for Israel.  The film The Gatekeepers was the best documentary film in Academy Awards nominations.  Over two hundred former senior security officials from Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), Mossad, Sin Bet and police have formed an organization named Commanders for Israel Security.  They see two state solution as a guarantee for Israel security. Ami has made the correct diagnosis that ‘We’re so trapped behind our own walls; we can’t see what seems obvious to outsiders’.  Israelis don’t’ need goyim (non-Jew) to tell them what is good for them? They need to listen to fellow Israelis who spent their lives defending the country.

“Tombstones break,

words pass, words are forgotten,

lips that uttered them turn to dust,

languages die like people, and other languages are resurrected,

gods in the heavens change,

gods come and go.

Prayers remain forever.”                               Yehuda Amichai

 

Ami Ayalon with Anthony David.  Friendly Fire: How Israel Became Its own Worst Enemy and the Hope for Its Future (Lebanon, New Hampshire: Steer Forth Press), 2020

Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

25 October 2020

Defence Journal, November 2020

Afghan Conundrum

From Dr Hamid Hussain. 

“A real friend is one who takes the hand of his friend in times of distress and helplessness’.  Afghan proverb

 In September 2020, Afghan government and Taliban representatives met for the first time publicly in Qatar to start intra-Afghan dialogue.  There were lot of hurdles between the first step of signing of agreement between United States and Taliban in February 2020 and start of intra-Afghan dialogue in September 2020.

 All parties are asking Taliban for a ceasefire during intra-Afghan dialogue.  Taliban are not agreeing to this condition and violence has escalated in the last few months.  Taliban leadership is concerned that if it agrees to a ceasefire then foot soldiers and local commanders will head back to their homes.  This will weaken Taliban negotiation position and it will require some effort to re-mobilize foot soldiers.  In addition, there is also fear that hardline Taliban may break away.  The price that Taliban are paying is negative public opinion inside Afghanistan.  Large number of Afghans are angry that Taliban have signed a truce with foreign troops; the very rai-son d’etre of Taliban fight while shedding the blood of fellow Afghans with impunity. Continue reading “Afghan Conundrum”

Book Review: The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith

 Hamid Hussain

David Smith’s book The Quetta Experience is a groundbreaking and unique study of Pakistan army’s prestigious Command & Staff College that trains army officers for higher ranks. This book is based on interviews of American army officers who attended Command and Staff College at Quetta in Pakistan. Foreign Area Officers (FAO) of US army spent a year at Staff College.

Colonel David Smith is well qualified to embark on this kind of project.  He attended Staff College Quetta in 1982 and has remained in contact with large number of senior officers of Pakistan army.  In view of his extensive contacts in Pakistan army, he has been a Pakistan hand at Pentagon and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for over two decades. Continue reading “Book Review: The Quetta Experience: A Study of Attitudes and Values Within the Pakistan Army by David O Smith”

Book Review: The Boats of Cherbourg

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – The Boats of Cherbourg by Abraham Rabinovich

Hamid Hussain

The Boats of Cherbourg: The Navy That Stole Its Own Boats and Revolutionized Naval Warfare by [Abraham Rabinovich]

A well respected Israeli military historian Abraham Rabinovich’ s book is a fascinating account of a little known chapter of naval history.  Israeli air force and armored corps were ruling the roost as these two services played key role in June 1967 stunning victory against three Arab armies.  Israeli navy was relegated to the back seat as no one saw any meaningful role for this service.  The lion’s share of defense budget was allocated to air force and army.  Israeli navy needed a cheaper option to fulfill its operational role. Continue reading “Book Review: The Boats of Cherbourg”

Book Review: The Battle for Pakistan

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain.

Book Review – The Battle for Pakistan by Shuja Nawaz

Hamid Hussain

 Shuja Nawaz’s new book The Battle for Pakistan is a timely release of a work that reviews Pakistan’s security challenges and U.S. Pakistan relations. A new unpredictable era of U.S.-Pakistan relations is around the corner in view of recent U.S.-Taliban agreement and uncertain future of Afghanistan.

There are not many analysts and scholars of the region with access to both Pakistani and American sources. Shuja is uniquely equipped for such a project as he has access to Pakistani army high command as well as Pentagon and State Department sources.  Book covers U.S.-Pakistan relations, working of Pakistan army high command and fraught civil-military relations in Pakistan.

 Shuja gives a comprehensive view of expectations and disappointments of Pakistan and United States.  The dilemma of this un-equal and transactional relationship is that each side fail to understand the interests of the other party and ends up blaming its own failures on the duplicity of the other party.  This has been a predicted cycle over the last seventy years.

 Shuja gives insight into power struggle among senior officers of Pakistan army.  The first round was when General Pervez Musharraf was forced to give up his uniform and his confidant and successor General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani worked to bring his own team.  He superseded and removed from important positions officers considered close to Musharraf.  Kayani brought his own team of senior officers and then eased Musharraf’s ouster in 2008 to enjoy two three years tenures as the master game-keeper of the reserve.  

 Several segments of the book deal with civil-military relations. Shuja provides details of many episodes of serious friction.  Army is the dominant force and civil-military relations are seriously imbalanced.  Mutual distrust, antipathy and outright disdain for each other ensures repeated cycles of crisis.  Each side has become expert in self-goal seriously damaging country’s reputation.  Army high command has not been able to work with two major political parties; Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).  This forced them to put their chips on the third option. Current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan is actively supported by army high command.  Army high command and PTI repeatedly claim that they are on the ‘same page’, however, army is taking lead in tackling different problems faced by the country.  Army nominated and supported serving and retired military personnel, bureaucrats and politicians have found place in all corridors of power.  The seeds of distrust are thus sowed, and friction will inevitably increase between army and new political force of PTI. 

 Shuja also provides details about increasing role of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Pakistan’s internal affairs.  In many cases, United States used Saudi Arabia and UAE to manage delicate domestic political matters of Pakistan. Pakistan is increasingly dependent on Saudi and UAE largesse due to difficult economic state. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) has developed close personal relation with President Donald Trump and Washington uses this connection to manage some areas of Pakistan policy.

 Book is a must read for everyone interested in U.S.-Pakistan relations and the region.  In Pakistan, the book launch became unintended casualty of controversy over Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s three years extension of service.  Book’s South Asian edition was published in India in August 2019.  When Pakistan enacted trade ban with India, book could not be delivered to Pakistan.  A Pakistani publisher released the book and Shuja travelled to Pakistan for book launch ceremonies in several cities.  Pakistan Supreme Court took the case of extension of COAS shaking the army brass.  They asked Shuja to delay the book launch as it could generate criticism of the army although book presents Pakistan army point of view on various issues. Shuja refused to cancel book launch and army directly pressurized event organizers to cancel the events.  More copies were sold in Pakistan due to silly acts of the brass. 

 Shuja Nawaz.  The Battle for Pakistan: The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighborhood (Karachi: Liberty Publishing), 2020

 Hamid Hussain

May 2020

[email protected]

Afghanistan, Next Round

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Some questions and then more questions came my way about recent events in Afghanistan. My two cents put together in the piece.

Afghanistan – Next Round Afghan Style

Hamid Hussain

“However tall the mountain is, there is a road to the top of it”.   Afghan Proverb

United States and Taliban signed an agreement in February 2020.  The agreement was to pave the way for withdrawal of US troops and integration of Taliban in Afghan political system. The next step was exchange of 5000 Taliban and 1000 Afghan government prisoners.  This also proved to be the first hurdle.  Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insisted on linking prisoner release with cease fire.  Taliban rejected it and under US pressure, Ghani released few hundred Taliban prisoners.

In the deal with US, Taliban agreed not to threaten “security of US and its allies’.  Taliban defined only Europeans as ‘US allies.  Off course they don’t consider Afghan government as US ally therefore they continued to attack government forces. On the start of the Muslim holy months of Ramazan, Ghani asked again for a ceasefire.  Taliban representative in his response called this call ‘illogical’.  Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) also called for a ceasefire during negotiations between Taliban and Afghan government.  Taliban are not likely to agree to this.  They see attacks on Afghan security forces as a lever to extract more concessions. Taliban also want to calibrate its military operations to keep momentum of its cadres.  If they agree to a prolonged ceasefire and few months later need military operations, they may face difficulties in re-activating its own cadres.

Current violence in uneven geographically.  Violence has decreased in Taliban controlled areas in south and east and large cities.  In Taliban controlled areas, night raids by Afghan forces and air strikes by US forces and attacks by Taliban on government posts and convoys, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks and target killings was the main engine of violence.  Afghan forces have stopped operations in Taliban controlled areas resulting in marked reduction of violence.  In government controlled large cities, Taliban were attacking government and civilian targets.  They have markedly reduced these attacks that resulted in reduction of violence in large cities. In some parts of eastern Afghanistan, Daesh was responsible for most attacks.  An unlikely alliance of US, Afghan forces, Taliban and local militias confronted Daesh from all sides eliminating most pockets of Daesh that contributed to marked reduction of violence. In all these areas, with reduction of violence, general public feels somewhat secure with economic activity picking up in towns and rural areas. Continue reading “Afghanistan, Next Round”