Nasim Zehra’s Book on Kargil. Review by Maj Amin

 

Review from Major Amin. 

NASIM ZEHRAS TOO LATE AFTER THE EVENT KARGIL BOOK ANALYSED

Agha H Amin

My first issue with this book is that analysis delayed is analysis lost and Nasim Zehra is guilty of publishing this analysis some 20 years late. Before that she was in the good books of many culprits of Kargil who 20 years later are fired cartridges with near zero nuisance value. More seriously, I take analytical as well as conceptual dispute with her in regarding characters like Lieutenant General Javed Hassan as “ courageous and conscientious”

Continue reading “Nasim Zehra’s Book on Kargil. Review by Maj Amin”

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Pearls of Nonsense About Drones

See It/Shoot It: The Secret History of the CIA's Lethal Drone Program by [Fuller, Christopher J.]

See It/Shoot It: The Secret History of the CIA’s Lethal Drone Program. by Christopher J. Fuller

Book Review from Major Agha Humayun Amin. 

This is an interesting endeavor by a self-styled expert on drones from the University of Southampton in United Kingdom.

I first read about this great expert on drones in a review by one Mr. Phillip O Warlick II of Air Command and Staff College who elevated the book and its author to prophetic heights.

Having witnessed some drone strikes personally and having extensively travelled in the area affected by the so called US drone program I decided to buy this book which was quite a blunder as I now reflect in retrospect.

Blunder in the sense that I learnt nothing additional about the drone program. Continue reading “Pearls of Nonsense About Drones”

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Review: Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate: Covert Action and Internal Operations

Book Review sent in by Maj Agha Amin. Unfortunately the pictures in the original are low quality and I was unable to fix that problem. Still, you will get the gist of it. 

This is a very interesting book by a Montana University (adjunct) Professor (Owen Sirrs).

The author explains that the  genesis of this book was his:– (page-9)

Two- month stay at the Counterinsurgency Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan during the summer of 2009. It was there that I learned a great deal more about Afghanistan–Pakistan relations in general and ISI operations in Afghanistan in particular.”

The book examines the following issues in the writers own words:–

  1. How has ISI evolved as an institution exercising intelligence and security responsibilities at home and abroad? What were the driving forces behind that evolutionary process?
  2. How does ISI fit into the larger Pakistani Intelligence Community?
  3. What does the decades- old relationship between ISI and the CIA tell us about the larger US–Pakistan security relationship?
  4. What is ISI’s record in providing accurate and timely early warning intelligence to decision- makers?
  5. To what extent has ISI disrupted and abused Pakistan’s democratic processes? 
  6. Is ISI a rogue agency or a state within a state? 
  7. Can ISI be reined in and the PIC (Pakistani Intelligence community) reformed? 
  8. How has ISI employed UW (Unconventional warfare) in support of the state’s national security objectives? To what extent has UW been a successful strategy for Pakistan?

 These are the very interesting question that the writer has formulated as stated in the books beginning and has attempted to answer in this most interesting book. Continue reading “Review: Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate: Covert Action and Internal Operations”

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Review: The Garrison State: Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849-1947

The Garrison State: Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849-1947 (SAGE Series in Modern Indian History)

The following is a review sent in by Major Agha Humayun Amin (retd). As usual, Major Amin is sometimes, shall we say, harsh, but his knowledge of this subject is encyclopedic and always worth reading..

My first association with works of Professor Tan Tai Yong started in 2000 when he wrote an article that as per his own admission forms the basis of this book.

Although Professor Yong seemed at that time in 2000 to be a well meaning scholar,there were serious basic flaws in his research.

I wrote a letter to the Journal of Military History at that time in 2000 which that journal , keeping in line with its tradition of intellectual dishonesty, did not publish, citing lame excuses about lack of space. That letter is appended at the end of this review, so that the reader may have an idea about what was the basis of my criticism.

The West is in the habit of accepting so called scholars like Professor Yong as experts on Indo Pak history. So Journal of Military History of USA was merely following this strange tradition.

When I read this book under review in 2018 some 18 years after my initial critique I was disappointed to find that Professor Yong had not improved his knowledge , although most the faults he has committed in this book were entirely avoidable.

The first issue is regarding why the British started preferred Punjab and Frontier for the army recruitment.

First the assertion that it was only by the 1880s that the British started favoring soldiers from Punjab is wrong.

The hard facts of the situation are that some 90 % of the pre 1857 Bengal Army recruited from UP and Bihar had rebelled or disbanded in 1857 and an entirely new army was created, composed mostly of set of regiments raised in Punjab (frontier being its part) in 1857-58.

While Lord Roberts pronouncements can be credited as “ Martial Races Theory” a clear shift in British recruitment policy favouring Punjab over UP and Bihar had been initiated in 1857-58.

Peel Commission of 1858-59 had clearly laid the basis of this policy. Thus the “Peel Commission” constituted after 1857 to study and analyse the future composition of the Indian Army recommended that the native army should be composed of different nationalities and castes, and as a general rule mixed promiscuously through each regiment! Such system had existed in the Madras and Bombay armies but these were much smaller as compared to the Bengal Army. However, India was now viewed in terms of loyal and disloyal.

Professor Yong , if I am to understand this book , simply denies the existence of the British loyalist Syed Ahmad Khans landmark work “Causes of Indian Mutiny” written in 1859 and republished as an Indian translation in 1873.

This pamphlet which suggested formation of class regiments did have immense impact on British thinking and pre-dates Robert who only came into prominence after 1885.

Lord Canning’s views about the policy of “Divide and Rule” expressed in 1857 are thought provoking; Canning thus said in a letter dated 9 October 1857:’ “the men who fought against us at Delhi were of both creeds; probably in equal numbers. If we destroy or desecrate Mussulman Mosques or Brahman Temples we do exactly what is wanting to band the two antagonist races against ourselves…..as we must rule 150 million of people by a handful (more or less small) number of Englishmen, let us do it in the manner best calculated to leave them divided (as in religion and national feeling as they already are) and to inspire them with the greatest possible awe of our power .

Canning went further and very subtly defined certain guidelines regarding employment of various classes after 1857:-

“All exclusion of Mahomeddan, Rajpoots or even of Brahmans should be a matter of management rather than of rule; and indeed that it will be right to take an opportunity, though not just yet, to show by an exception here and there, that the rule does not exist. It is desirable that no class should feel that it had henceforward nothing to expect from the government”

Continue reading “Review: The Garrison State: Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849-1947”

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Collaboration and Loyalty in British India

This topic comes up a lot and there are many (contradictory) nationalist myths about who did and did not collaborate with the British during their rule in India. Major Amin has a short podcast about this topic that is worth listening to:

India was conquered by the East India Company using (mostly) the Bengal army, recruited primarily from what is now eastern UP and Bihar. Most of these soldiers were Hindus and a large section were Brahmins, but all religions, ethnicities and castes joined the EIC army at various points and all have examples of mutinies (many small, one large), frequently triggered by grievances over pay and conditions, but sometimes acquiring or having a nationalist color as well. Have a listen.

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Podcasts by Major Amin. India, Pakistan, Proxy Wars

Readers of this blog are familiar with Pakistani military historian Major Agha Humayun Amin.  Major Amin has recorded a number of podcasts on the Anchor app and they are worth a listen if you are interested in military history, Indian history and related topics.

This podcast in particular is a good introduction to Major Amin’s own background (he has worked with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, has been a Taliban prisoner, and then a contractor in post-American Afghanistan, with extensive experience in the region). He also mentions his mentor Edward Luttwak.

In this podcast he makes many interesting observations and has his usual blunt and sometimes harsh opinions. Some of his topics here include:

  1. His view is that there is no such thing as a “non-state actor”. All actors in Afghanistan are proxies of some state or the other. In the case of the Taliban, that means Pakistan.
  2. How the Americans were fooled into bombing (via drones) and paying for bombing (Pakistani armed forces) the FATA region, while Taliban were actually located in Balochistan.
  3. How Kiyani prolonged the FATA operations to milk American coalition support funds.
  4. FATA Pakhtoons as “Red Indians” , subject to endless operations, not just today but many years ago, regarded as “our firing range”. Regarded as such not just by non-Pakhtoons, but also by many “settled area” Pakhtoons.
  5. Some of the nuts and bolts of this endless war.
  6. Pakistan’s theory of nuclear brinkmanship, developed initially with American acquiescence (because they did not want India to attack Pakistan and disrupt their Afghanistan operation).
  7. Siachen, Kargil.
  8. The renewed Kashmir infiltration in the last few years.
  9. Pakistan army’s mindset and some of the more interesting nonsense that is promoted in its cause (such as Javed Hasan’s classic “India, a study in profile”).
  10. The security setups of both sides leak like a sieve. Nothing is really secret, yet most things are unknown to their own politicians and common people.
  11. No Indo-Pak war is likely, but proxy war will accelerate.
  12. Trump will abandon Afghanistan for electoral reasons, civil war will accelerate.

You don’t have to agree with Major Amin’s views. But his detailed knowledge of this murky world is worth a listen. At a minimum it should make you wary of all state propaganda narratives.

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Book Review: Limited War in South Asia

This is Major Amin’s review of “Limited War in South Asia”

In 2018 when I saw this book by Kaushik Roy I was surprised since to my mind Kaushik Roy does very well with archives and records but is not a real military historian who understands hard core military matters.
I therefore decided to procure this book and read it , and find out what Mr Kaushik Roy has found out.
Below is my review of Kaushik Roy and Scott Gates book.
The maps which are published at the start of the book are poorly drawn, inaccurate and impossible to understand as the scale is too small.A serious failing for a book published by a publisher as eminent as Routledge as late as 2017 !
For example all Pakistani formations are marked incorrectly although the Pakistani order of battle is known worldwide.This is a simply inexcusable failure.
Like Pakistan’s 1 Corps is marked as 2 Corps while Pakistan’s 2 Corps is marked as 1 Corps and even its dispositions are not marked accurately.
Further the map invents a new corps which has never existed in the Pakistan Army, ie 3 Corps.Thus Lahore’s 4 Corps is shown as 3 Corps.
The writer magnifies the role of Indian Army in North Africa and Italy while in reality in both theaters Indian Army was part of a much larger British Australian New Zealand South African American force and enjoyed massive numerical superiority in both theaters. Thus Indian Army casualties in North Africa were very low and the same was the case in Italy.In most ways the Indian Army learnt little about higher command as British Indian Army was never trusted with major offensive operations. The brigade and divisional commanders were always British and each Indian brigade had one British infantry unit. Continue reading “Book Review: Limited War in South Asia”

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BrownCast Podcast episode 18: India and Pakistan; Confrontation in the Subcontinent

Image result for kashmir crisisAnother BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.

In this episode Razib and Omar talk to Major Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain. Major Amin and Dr Hamid are familiar to our readers for their regular contributions on military history. In this episode we discuss the current India-Pakistan confrontation and what comes next. Events may have moved on even as this gets posted, but I am sure listeners will find it an interesting review of the military and political aspects of the crisis.

Postscript: I may have been too hasty in concluding that only one plane was lost that day. It seems that witness accounts and initial Pakistani claims all mention two aircraft. Pakistan says that was another Indian plane, Indians say it was a PAF F-16. Right now, all we can say is that Abhinandan’s MiG 21 crashed without a doubt.. what happened to the second plane and who was it? We don’t know yet for sure.

Note from Razib: I tried my best, but there were a few issues with the sound on this podcast. But since the substance is timely and hard to find elsewhere I think it’s worth it!

Image result for kashmir crisis

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Can India and Pakistan Make Peace?

Major Amin sent in an old article of his from 2013 (posted below).
I think Indian and Pakistan CAN make peace, but not yet… Anyway, you can read Major Amin’s more pessimistic take here.. 
Can India and Pakistan make Peace – Agha.H.Amin , Major (r)
(from 2013)
The recent sudden angelic desire on part of the Pakistani establishment to make peace with India has nothing to do with any major shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy written in the Pakistani military headquarters popularly known as the GHQ.
The Pakistani apparent shift is merely a tactical response to extreme confrontation with the US over perceived US view that Pakistan is playing a double game in Afghanistan.
This is similar to Musharrafs flirtation with India from 2000 to 2007 which in reality was a gambit to prevent a two front war with Afghanistan occupied by the USA and a hostile India in the east.
The real picture of true intentions of the Pakistani military will emerge when the US withdraws from Afghanistan.
This will be the time when the Russians ,Iranians and Indians will have no choice but to support the Northern Alliance against Pakistan sponsored Taliban who regard all Shias, Ismailis,Non Pashtuns,moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred.
The Pakistani politicians are a compromised manipulated lot who are under firm control of the Pakistani military thanks to the politicians own massive financial corruption. They will do what the Pakistani generals tell them whether it is the PPP, PML or any new party like Imran Khans Tehrik i Insaaf.
Pakistan will remain the same state run by an army rather than a state with an army.The Pakistani generals will control Pakistan’s politics and foreign policy and Pakistan India relations will remain a mix of an uneasy and an unpredictable peace.

Continue reading “Can India and Pakistan Make Peace?”

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Review: Directorate S


Review from Major Amin: Directorate S –The CIA and Americas Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016-Steve Coll -Allen Lane- Penguin Books-2018-ISBN-978-1-846-14660-2 ISBN-13: 978-1987659184 ISBN-10: 198765918X


A leading US-Israeli Intelligence analyst and operator recently summed up pathetic state of US intelligence operators in Pakistan as following:–

They are afraid of their own shadows”

As great powers decline , their quality of strategic judgement and decision making and their operational effectiveness also markedly declines.

Steve Coll’s voluminous and bulky book reconfirms this fact .

The first defect of this book is that it does not contain a single relevant map connected to the subject i.e Directorate S.

On page 12 the writer repeats a false and unsubstantiated claim that CIA pilots had to fly Russian MI series helicopters for Northern Alliance , whereas in reality Afghanistan never had any shortage of Afghan helicopter pilots.

On page 14 the author confirms his absolute lack of knowledge of geography when he fallaciously claims that Panjsher valley slices north towards Tajikistan , whereas in reality Panjsher valley inclines towards Chitral in Pakistan towards the Northeast , ending at Anjuman Pass.

The authors analysis is a clear testament to the fallacious assessments of US policy makers about Afghanistan like on page-17 he discusses Al Qaeda and US policy makers obsession with Al Qaeda.

As a matter of fact Al Qaeda was never the real player in Afghanistan all along . It was a puny group with limited strategic ability. The real players in Afghanistan all along were Taliban supported by Directorate S of the ISI.

This basic US perceptual error repeatedly appears in Steve Colls voluminous narrative and Steve Coll himself is quite confused about it.

Steve Colls factually flawed statements like page-17 where he states “Recalling the miserable fates of Imperial Britain” while referring to Britain”s Afghan wars. Why Coll has to make such baseless statements is perplexing. As a matter of fact all three Afghan wars were a strategic success , the first being waged by a British private company. All three Afghan wars made British strategic position in India and West Asia stronger and created a more stable Afghanistan.I guess it is fashionable in western authors to make such statements about what a terrible place Afghanistan was and is . Continue reading “Review: Directorate S”

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