Spoils of War; The Aircraft of the Afghan Air Force

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Spoils of War

 Chaotic United States withdrawal from Afghanistan and consequent vacuum rapidly filled by Taliban surprised everyone.  Large amounts of weapons, especially aircraft falling into the hands of the Taliban raised some concerns. However, these fears are exaggerated.  Taliban were an insurgent force engaging in a protracted warfare focused on hit and run, small scale engagements, ambushes, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks and assassinations in rural and urban areas.  It used motorcycles and civilian trucks for mobility and small arms, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), mortars and explosives for its operations.

The United States developed the Afghan Air Force (AAF) with the primary aim of supporting Afghan security forces with aerial reconnaissance and intelligence, logistic support to troops deployed in operational areas and use of rotary wing and light fixed wing attack planes to attack insurgent deployments.

Russian MI-17 was the nucleus as Afghan pilots and maintenance crew have long experience with these helicopters. Many Afghans living in Russia and Eastern European countries with experience with MI-17 and newly trained pilots and crew managed these helicopters. However, the MI-17 workhorse was downgraded in favor of new shiny American aerial toys. Many factors were at play.  Russian trained officers including pilots were eased out and when sanctions were placed on Russia, Afghan government funds could not be used for Russian equipment. This issue was circumvented to some extent by routing MI-17s and its parts through India.  American regulations require that U.S. finding should be used to buy American made equipment. The U.S. government was planning to phase out MI-17 by 2022 and no further funding was planned for this category.

Russian planes are simple to operate and manuals don’t need Russian language.  Afghanistan already had long experience with Russian aircraft and there was an available pool that could be easily expanded.  Maintenance crew with limited education can be trained without mastering Russian language. On the other hand, American planes are complex and the English language is essential.  Pilots and maintenance crew had to first learn the English language before training on American planes. Some training programs were in the United States that required a lengthy process of vetting and visa requirements.  In 2020, with COVID pandemic, Afghan pilots who came back from basic training in the United States could not start flying with their trainers and mentors. There was always a deficiency of qualified Afghan pilots and maintenance crew. Private contractors were operating and maintaining AAF planes. When the security situation deteriorated, some of the training was moved to third countries especially Gulf sheikhdoms. Continue reading Spoils of War; The Aircraft of the Afghan Air Force

The Afghan National Army

From Dr Hamid Hussain (discussing question of whether the ANA can be resurrected? what will become of them?)

Some informed individuals asked for my two cents worth opinion about a conversation about the Afghan National Army (ANA) in a changed scenario.  One concern is that a large number of unemployed soldiers can join any faction of the war economy. It invariably resulted in comparison with the disbandment of the Iraqi army after the second Gulf war.

 

Hamid

Afghan National Army (ANA)

Thanks Sir for your email.  You raise an important point and following is my take;

“Blood cannot be washed out with blood”.   Pashto proverb

ANA had disintegrated in the aftermath of Soviet withdrawal and subsequent civil war.  New ANA post American occupation is a more recent phenomenon and has an interesting history. In the first few years after the U.S. arrival in late 2001, security was provided by militias of local warlords.  The U.S. had no initial plan for the nation building project and the Department of Defense (DOD) under Donald Rumsfeld was allergic to the whole idea. Constitution of the new Afghan government was a highly centralized template and deft Hamid Karzai had great influence on the process.  Once this centralized project was adopted, then it dawned that this will need an effective national army.  This also neatly fitted into the idea of sidelining local powerful warlords and shedding militias.  However, when the nascent structure for ANA was put in place in 2005-6, insurgency had started in Pashtun south and east.  This meant dominance of non-Pashtuns for a variety of reasons.

These non-Pashtuns had joined the U.S. quite early and had influence due to direct contact with American handlers.  As insurgency was mainly in Pashtun areas therefore there was hesitancy to recruit Pashtuns.  However, one could not do away with Pashtuns therefore Soviet era leftist officers were brought back and urban educated as well some tribal rural Pashtuns resenting Taliban dominance were recruited. Later, some of these officers were eased out again due to the influence of non-Pashtuns power brokers.  Every power player used ANA and police to fill ranks with his partisans.  This was a favor providing a secure job. During the Obama administration, ANA was expanded but rapid expansion simply provided more avenues of corruption including pocketing salaries of ‘ghost soldiers’ that only existed on army payroll.  Despite these handicaps, ANA had a reasonable structure and more importantly in view of rampant corruption in police and other government departments. ANA was held in high esteem by the general public.  More money was spent on Special Operations Forces (SOF) that were better trained, equipped & supported. Disproportionately, a large number of SOF was Uzbek, Tajik & Hazara. Continue reading The Afghan National Army

Electronic Surveillance; New Frontier

From Dr Hamid Hussain

New Frontierk
In God we trust, all others we monitor’.  Intercept Operator’s motto.  National Security Agency Study, Deadly Transmissions, December 1970

 Recent revelation about use of Pegasus software for surveillance of mobile phones by several governments surprised very few. It simply confirmed what most of us believe that surveillance is now part of modern life. This information is not new.  In 2013, details about National Security Agency (NSA) running an electronic surveillance program on massive scale named PRISM became public. In 2012, information became public that a joint United States and Israeli cyber operation code named ‘Operation Olympic Games’ using an offensive computer virus Stuxnet damaged Iranian nuclear centrifuges at Natanz.  Later, Wikileaks and revelations by Edward Snowdon about large scale surveillance all over the globe only highlighted the omnipresence of surveillance in our daily lives.  United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia and Israel use extensive surveillance with state of the start equipment.

 Pegasus is a commercial program sold by an Israeli company NSO. The name is derived from the first initials of company’s three founders; Niv Carmi, Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie. It was first bought by a US based private equity firm. In 2018, when concerns emerged about the program it was sold to a London based group. Israel recognized the importance electronic and communication revolution early.  The most authoritative account of Mossad was written by Gordon Thomas in 1999 titled Gideon’s Spies.  Director General of Mossad Danny Yatom (1996-1998) recognized early the defensive and offensive opportunities in the brave new world of computers.  He ordered research and development division to develop programs that could infiltrate computers for monitoring as well as electronic ‘microbes’ that could destroy the systems.  Today, we know these ‘microbes’ as computer ‘viruses’.

 Pegasus can infiltrate any mobile phone and gain access to contacts, phone calls, text messages and even take control of the microphone and camera for real time surveillance. The sales pitch for Pegasus was to fight crime and terrorism.  However, there were concerns about its abuse by governments and NSO launched a public relations campaign to assure human rights groups.  It sold Pegasus to governments of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India and Mexico. In addition to criminals and terrorists, this program was also used for surveillance of political rivals, dissidents, diplomats, journalists and human right activists and organizations. Contrary to popular belief, Pegasus is not a mass surveillance program but a targeted one.

 The company is based in Israel therefore a lot of negative fallout for Israel.  Government tried to distance itself from NSO, but no one believes that Israeli government would have allowed sale of such program to foreign governments without access to data.  Such technology sale is strictly controlled by Israeli government based on national security concerns.  It is used as a diplomatic tool to win potential allies.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used sale of such technology for improving relations with Saudi Arabia and Gulf sheikhdoms.  Any Israeli government allowing sale of programs like Pegasus without having a trap door to have access to surveillance done by the clients of Pegasus will be charged with dereliction of duty. It is no surprise that countries like Russia and China develop their own programs.  They may steal state of the art technology through industrial espionage but do not buy off the shelf products as it makes them vulnerable.

 Public revelations of sale of surveillance technology to foreign clients by private Israeli companies is making many Israelis uncomfortable.  They view such sales as damaging the Israeli brand.  Israeli government has formed a high powered committee of Knesset to review the whole process of sale of surveillance technology.  Now, many Israeli civil rights groups are also concerned about domestic surveillance. In Israel there are severe restrictions on surveillance of Jewish citizens of Israel but Arab citizens and Palestinians in occupied territories have no protection.  Israeli society in general accepted this situation as a protective umbrella against extremist threats.  Details of surveillance methods are not made public and elite Signal Intelligence (SIGINTEL) Unit 8200 is involved in this surveillance.  In 2014, thirty four veterans of Unit 8200, now on reservist duty stunned Israel by writing a letter to Prime Minister refusing to serve in occupied territories.  This letter highlighted the moral dilemma faced by those serving in this field.

 Government decisions are guided by circumstances and there is risk of a slippery slope. There is no guarantee that government that asked for acquiescence of citizens in the name of security will not invoke an emergency to drag everybody in the net. The scare happened during the early phase of Corona pandemic.  In March 2020, then Defence Minister Naftali Bennett proposed that Military Intelligence and NSO should be given the task of tracking Corona virus carriers.  This meant transferring highly classified personal data of Israeli citizens collected by internal security organization Shin Bet to NSO.  Knesset alarmed by this dangerous phenomenon vetoed the idea.

 Surveillance and defensive and offensive cyber capabilities are part of modern national security apparatus.  They are new weapons like fighter jets, tanks and missiles.  Innovation is part of human story and not new, however, the revolution of modern technology is democratization of these tools. A high school dropout sitting in a dingy room with a cheap computer can bring down a hundred year old bank or turn off the electric grid of a mega city with few clicks on his keyboard. Society needs protection against these threats but also needs to put in place laws to prevent abuse by the government. Only an informed citizenry equipped with investigative tools and ever vigilance can ensure that their legitimate rights are protected at the same time when they give government the authority to use tools to protect them.

 “There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They are spying on me through my phone’ anymore.  Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me’.  Philip K. Dick – Died 1982

 Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

25 July 2021

Afghan Snake Pit

From Dr Hamid Hussain

01 August 2021
An informed senior Pakistani officer asked me about current parlays in the context of Afghanistan and following was my response; It can be considered analysis by an armchair Subedar Major.
Hamid

Thanks Sir.   All is well here.  U.S-Pakistan relations in short-term (6-12 months) are focused on Afghanistan.  Washington’s short list includes Pakistan using its influence (in my view now limited as Taliban have developed independent relationships with all players) to prevent Taliban from outright military takeover, not to directly undermine Ghani’s tattering government and not to object to some role for India in Afghanistan (technical support to government).

On part of Pakistan, they are trying to convince Washington that Taliban will take over sooner or later and therefore do not waste political capital on retreating Afghan players.  They have a point and Washngton understands this but can not allow Taliban take over so soon after departure as it could be damaging both internally and internationally.  If it occurs after a year or two that is fine.  Americans have not forgotten the Pakistani double cross.  There is a lot of anger in the military and intelligence community and they will be satisfied to some extent if Pakistan suffers. Recent interview of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) leader by CNN is a sign towards that direction.  For the first time, I have sensed fear among senior Pakistani brass due to the vulnerability of Pakistan to unexpected events.  Personal interest of Faiz Hamid is also at play.  He wants to portray himself as the man who can continue the policy rather than dealing with a new and unknown army Chief in 2022 (he gave the same line to the Chinese). 
 If the coming US-China conflict is centered around this region, there is a clear and present danger for a lot of damage to Pakistan. The best hope for Pakistan is that the major center of this conflict is in the South China sea while this region is simply a side show. In that case Pakistan can manage the fallout. I’m not sure if this point has sunk in Pakistan’s strategic community.

With this background, it is easy to understand possible US moves in the next 12-18 months. Move all US personnel out of harm’s way and substantially reduce financial commitment. However, at the same time use deteriorating security to get limited involvement of regional players who have their own fears and interests. This also ties into other strategic objectives of curtailing the influence of China and Russia. Just before the presidential election, in October 2020, the U.S. State Department quietly removed Eastern Turkestan Movement (ETM) from its terror list.  We will likely see more visibility of the Uighur cause in Europe and North America and re-organization of Uighur militants in ungovernable spaces of Afghanistan moving more closely to Chinese borders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.  This will be complemented by attacks on Chinese diplomatic and economic targets in these countries.  Russia will have a mix of cooperation and competition with China in this theatre.  If it is tilted more towards competition that suits Washington.  The U.S. wants to see India more allied with Washington and prop it up against China.  If India gets some role in the region, it helps Washington to keep its hands clean. The dirty work of dealing with TTP and Baloch militants can remain with India.
The wild card as always is Afghan players.  They have learned the art of survival by working and then double crossing multiple masters.  This is necessary in view of their geographical location.  Like other highlanders i.e. Kurds, they have mastered the art of cross and double cross to perfection. At present, it is wait and watch by all Afghan players as they want two major contenders; Washington and Taliban to show their hand.  When a military power is in full swing, it is like a torrent in the stream and no one wants to come in its path. Once it passes away and water is calm then the Afghan makes his move.  In my view, a little lifting of the curtain will occur if and when the Taliban decide to go after major cities.  They are waiting for American assets to move out of the game.  They have calculated that once major military and intelligence assets are out of theatre, it will be very difficult to re-introduce them by any American leader. This will give them leverage and they hope that Americnas will come to terms with the fait accompli.
Everyone is positioning for uncertainties in the near future and it is in this context that byzantine intrigues are at play.  Pakistan has increased intelligence surveillance of TTP and Baloch militants in Afghanistan and can use local assets to target their leaders and facilities. At the same time it is also dangling negotiation carrots to Baloch militants to cash in on their fear of losing the safe haven in Afghanistan. Russia and Iran are cooperating in the important city of Herat.  Russian and Iranian intelligence agents have set up listening and operational posts, reactivating old Afghan assets and pre-positioning arms and ammunition dumps.  Russia has also increased such cooperation with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (Turkmenistan is still holding out to its historical position of strict neutrality).
China has good relations with Pakistan in many sectors. However, in the context of Afghanistan, China has its concerns both in terms of Pakistan’s policy about the country as well as increased sympathy among Pakistani general population about Taliban as well as Islamic causes.  China is concerned about the safety of its personnel as well as infrastructure projects in Pakistan.  Despite the raising of two new light infantry divisions (34 and 44) by Pakistan for security of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects from the border with China at Khunjerab all the way to the port of Gwadar in Balochistan, CPEC infrastructure is vulnerable especially at both ends.  China has also increased cooperation with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and increased surveillance of the Wakhan corridor.
A new player is Turkey under neo-Ottoman dreams of Recep Erdogan. He sees himself as first leading Turkic speaking and then Sunni Muslims on a global scale. During earlier deployments of Turkish troops in Afghanistan under the flag of NATO, Turkish military and intelligence has expanded links with Abdul Rashid Dosttum.  Turkey trained a large number of Afghan Uzbeks and also positioned arms & ammunition in the region.
There are two models for the future.  One is cooperation where there is competition but still restraints that can be a win-win situation for all.  The other is perpetuation of conflict that not only keeps old wounds open but also inflicts new injuries.  Our hope is for the former but if history is a guide, our leaders always opt for the latter in our name.
“History tells us that it will get worse before it gets better’.  An Iraqi madrasa student during the height of Iraqi civil war.
Warm Regards,
Hamid

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