Film Review: Drone

Film review from Major Aghan Humayun Amin. (Spoilers ahead)

DRONES 

REVIEW ESSAY 

Last night I watched a movie named “ Drone” with immense interest. 

Drones have been a major part of my research since 2006 when I personally and closely saw some drone strikes while serving as a consultant in Afghanistan and Pakistan. My main client were Canadians and to be specific SNC Lavalin , at that time Canada’s largest consulting company and worlds fifth largest. The movies director is a Canadian citizen which multiplied my interest as Canada sometimes moves opposite United States and has been doing so with varied levels since loyalists fled to Canada after the rebellion of the American Colonies. 

The first issue with this movie which could be very hard hitting and a block buster is that it misses the small details , which is a case of lack of common sense and sweeping judgements which were entirely avoidable. 

The first image failure occurred when while claiming to depict Pakistans wild west Waziristan region the area filmed and shown was Pakistans biggest city Karachi. To deliver the most unkindest cut of all as Shakespeare would have described it , the first shot titled Waziristan shows sky scraper buildings in Karachi rather than mud houses and totally opposite images for which Waziristan is famous and known.  Continue reading “Film Review: Drone”

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Film Review: Berlin Falling

Review from Major Agha Humayun Amin.  I am sure some of Major Amin’s observations will invite comment 🙂

I was very keen to watch this movie and watching it was a big disappointment.

While the movie is low budget , budget by no means could have reduced it from reaching the stature of greatness if the man who made the movie was more intellectually dishonest !

The entire historic context of this movie is drastically flawed and fallacious.
The movie conveys a German military in Afghanistan that committed serious war crimes , whereas my personal observations having constructed five clinics in Kunduz in 2004-5 and having been involved in CASA 1000 survey passing through Kunduz province where German military was deployed , leads me to the irrevocable and unflinching conclusion that the German military in Kunduz was the most humane military outfit in entire NATO or non NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan.

Now this was entirely avoidable had the author carefully studied the history of German military record in Afghanistan.

As one who lived in Kabul and travelled extensively I found that Afghans loved no foreign country more dearly than Germany who they lovingly referred to as ”ALMAAN” and Turkey.

The reason was simple ! Both these states simply refused to enter areas where the public was hostile to NATO presence. While it is another issue that the German governments reasons for not doing so were based on pure and simple lack of moral courage or strategic resolution , in not annoying the large Muslim population of Germany , the result was positive, at least in terms of human rights. Continue reading “Film Review: Berlin Falling”

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Review: The Anarchy, by William Dalrymple

I had earlier posted a short version of this review, to which many people objected that it was not really a review, just a short rant. Major Amin has now sent a longer version. I hope this will satisfy some of the critics…

The Anarchy-
William Dalrymple

Book Review

By Major Agha H Amin

Dalrymple is not a serious historian but a highly skilled jester who plays to the gallery. He makes many factual errors in his book and frequently gets carried away by emotions. promiscuously mixing facts with fiction.

On page 12 there is a small typing error placing third mysore war victory of Cornwallis in 1782 rather than 1792:

In describing Aurangzeb on page 13 Dalrymple misses the most essential fact that it was the Hindu Maratha Insurgency that laid the foundation of the decline and fall of the Mughal Empire. In this regard, other groups such as the Rajputs etc were mickey mouse players; the real hero of Hindu resurgence was Sivaji.

Dalrymple describes Mohammad Shah in very derogatory terms,  but fails to
note that under his shaky tenure the Mughals still defeated Ahmad Shah Abdali at Sirhind in 1748.

The battle of Buxar took place in 1764 and not in 1765 as Mr Dalrymple states on page-16.

On page 60 Dalrymple fallaciously states that Bhonsle was incharge of Orrissa whereas the Bhonsla citadel was many hundred miles from Orrissa to the west in  Nagpur.

Dalrymple is addicted to fantasies (playing to the gallery), thus he projects the Mughals as the height of civilization while these so called civilized Mughals in 1719 publicly tortured Banda Bahadur’s five year old son, gouging out his heart while the child was alive and shoving it in his fathers mouth !

Nadir Shah did not invade Afghanistan in 1739 but in 1738 via Helmand, a long way from Delhi, but our brilliant and careless writer states he did so in 1739.

Dalyrmple totally misses one of the great  betrayals in Indian history at Karnal, where Nadir Shah of Persia on the prompting of Nawab of Avadh Saadat Khan decided to pillage and plunder Delhi after an initial agreement to return to Persia after being paid a relatively small fine.

Dalrymple spents great energy on vilifying the company for the famine of Bengal of 1770, but fails to reconcile the fact that a far greater famine broke out in Bengal under the British crown. In general, jis treatment of events reeks
of extreme polemics and subjectivism.

Even worse is his treatment of military events, for example in describing the First Anglo Mysore war he glorifies Hyder Ali but fails to note that he lost in several pitched battles against Colonel Smith and won the war only because of lack of cavalry by the company as well as the extreme corruption of  various company officials.

Dalrymples treatment of military history in general  is atrocious. For example,  in discussing the Second Anglo Mysore War he only discusses one battle (Pollilore) but totally ignores the fact that Hyder Ali was repeatedly defeated
at Porto Novo , Sholingur etc by Sir Eyre Coote.

Dalrymple totally ignores the fact that while the company lost one battle in 1780, the war continued till 1784 and was inconclusive in spite of Hyder Ali’s superior cavalry and the company’s corruption.

Dalyrmples use of historical facts is generally one sided and extremely biased. This is not a one-off, but a pattern. He cherry picks and higlights what fits his narrative, ignoring or downplaying what does not.

Ahmad Shah Abdali never went to Delhi in 1762 so Dalrymples claim that he ousted Imad ul Mulk in 1762 is incorrect (page-259 ).

By and large the book is a repetition of well known facts of British Indian history, framed tendentiously to fit his narrative. Basically Dalrymple has wasted a book in vain as it brings out nothing new. His whole conclusion about the company and the title of the book “Anarchy” is extremely questionable and
debatable. Firstly the English East India Company did not cause anarchy in India as Dalrymple repeatedly tries to prove. India was already in a state of complete anarchy when the British company became a serious player. They took advantage of this anarchy, they did not cause it.

Delhi was sacked more than 40 times between 1737 and 1800 by non British  forces, but Dalrymple is blind to this as it does not fit the narrative he wants to project. All the bad things he sees are only to be found in English East India Company. This will no doubt delight his nationalistic (or guilt-ridden English) readers, but it is a very questionable framing of 18the century Indian history.

His military knowledge is myopic and he constantly distorts military history and uses bits and pieces to prove or disprove as he wills at whim.

As a matter of fact the company restored order in India .The first three universities in Indian history were founded at Calcutta ,Madras and Bombay in 1856-57 by the Company. Outmoded customs such as widow burning , infanticide etc were abolished by the company. A hereditary class of feudal lords was created by Lord Cornwallis in 1792 as a result of which political
stability was introduced and strengthened in India. The company had many reformers, philanthropists and utilitarians but Dalrymple in his irrational hatred is blind to all these people.To Dalrymple all that British East India Company did
was bad and he has an extremely jaundiced and twisted vision, not an objective view of history.

Dalrymple gives no weightage to the fact that British parliament and system prosecuted Clive and Warren Hastings and tried to regulate company rule in India. They were not angels, but they were not the uniquely villainous source of all evils in India. Above all Dalrymple forgets that without the driving spirit of corporate enterprise of the company the British would never have conquered India. While personal interest has constantly dominated human conduct in history , whether it was a company or a state , Dalrymple wears coloured glasses and his perception is cloudy as well as confused.

Finally, my most serious issue with Dalrymple is his overly simplistic sweeping judgements. The Mughals for example were as big opportunists and greedy rulers as the company.They were a small group of adventurers, kicked out of central Asia, who captured India or north India just like the British company because of superior military tactics. If you look at Mughal contributions you find a few grand monuments such as the Taj Mahal or Shalimar Bagh in Lahore! Whereas the British company gave India , irrigation , universities, a
sound military system , a system of governance and  a class of  hereditary feudals who made the system more stable, relative to the times.

Another point that Dalrymple totally misses is that the company saved the Indian Muslim elite from total political extinction . The Muslims were practically nobodies by 1800. Delhi was ruled by the Marathas, Badshahi mosque of Lahore was a horse stable and a powder magazine! The Marathas
and Sikhs totally dominated north India! But a knight in shining armour comes and saves the Indian Muslim elite. It was Lake who saved the Muslims of Delhi from extinction! Hugh Gough saved the Muslims of Lahore and Peshawar! But Dalrymple misses out all these things.

Dalrymples most serious failure is that greed and avarice is not a British company failing but a human failing and all Indian rulers were guilty of this just as much as the EIC. Dalrymple fails to appreciate that Indians gladly
fought against Indians under the company because the company paid salaries in time !

Dalyrmple fails to note that British company]s triumphs were triumphs of organization, such as when Lieutenant Flint repeatedly defeated Tipu Sultan with a 100 % Indian force at Wandewash.Dalrymple fails to appreciate that
India was conquered by an organizationally superior company using 80 % Indian manpower! Why Indians followed them if they were as plainly evil as Dalrymple believes or wants us to believe !

And finally, Dalrymple fails to relate this past to what happened after the British left. Pakistan, where I live, is one of the most corrupt states in the
world .Pakistans tax officials of the so called FBR are 1 billion times more corrupt than the English East India Company could be in their wildest dreams. Parochialism is such that in todays Pakistan the entire ruling establishment consists of few districts and few castes of North Punjab and small parts of Sindh!

Characters like Dalrymple thrive on emotional manipulation which is why Dalrymple needs to be questioned and refuted!

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Book Review: The Anarchy (William Dalrymple)

A longer version of this review is now up at this link.

A short review from Major Amin. I have not yet read the book, but Dalrymple’s recent books have an increasing tendency to play to the gallery. I would not descirbe this as “irrational hatred” (see review below), it is entirely rational. He knows his audience and frames his books to pander to that audience. He is a good writer and is not ignorant, but his books are spoiled by his urge to frame his story in ways that will appeal to his audience (educated Indians who are happy to hear bad things about the EIC and Westerners who want to appear virtuous). Again, I have not read this book, but his other recent books and interviews all exhibit this tendency..

The Anarchy-Dalrymple– Book Review

The Anarchy-Dalrymple Book Review

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335881689_The_Anarchy-Dalrymple_Book_Review

Firstly English East India Company did not cause anarchy in India as Dalrymple repeatedly tries to prove.

India was in complete anarchy when the British company became a serious player.

Delhi was sacked more than 40 times between 1737 and 1800 by non British forcces, but Dalrymple is blind to this hard fact. All the bad things he sees are only to be found in English East India Company.

His military knowledge is myopic and he constantly distorts military history and uses bits and pieces to prove or disprove as he wills at whim.

As a matter of fact the company restored order in India .First three universities in Indian history were founded at Calcutta ,Madras and Bombay in 1856-57.

Outmoded customs like widow burning , infanticide etc were abolished by the company.

A hereditary class of feudal was created by Lord Cornwallis in 1792 as a result of which political stability was introduced and strengthened in India.

The company had many reformers, philanthropists and utilitarians but Dalrymple in his irrational hatred is blind to all these people.

To Dalrymple all that British East India Company did was bad and he has an extremely jaundiced and twisted vision.

Dalrymple gives no weightage to the fact that British parliament and system prosecuted Clive and Warren Hastings and tried to regulate India.

Above all Dalrymple forgets that without the driving spirit of corporate enterprise of the company the British would never have conquered India.

While personal interest has constantly dominated human conduct in history , whether it was a company or a state , Dalrymple wears coloured glasses and his perception is cloudy as well as confused.

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Book Review: The 1965 War by Shaukat Riza

From Major Amin

  1. THE PAKISTAN ARMY –WAR 1965 MAJOR GENERAL SHAUKAT RIZA (RETD) –ARMY EDUCATION PRESS 1984-309 PAGES , MAPS AND PHOTOGRAPHS Reviewed by Major Agha H Amin (Retired)
  2. This book was the first official effort to record military history of 1965 war. Major General Shaukat Riza an artillery officer dabbled in military writing and had penned many articles and military papers etc. He was described as a soft spoken gentle man who did not take kindly to being ordered to carry out ruthless action against civilians thus his removal from 9 Divisions command in 1971 in East Pakistan. On the other hand Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry when I met him in 1977-78 described him as not getting along well with major general abrar in the staff college in 1967-68 while serving as chief instructor. In addition he had a long record of having served as an instructor at various army schools of instruction including the prestigious command and staff college. The first major attempt at writing the 1965 war history was made by Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry whose book on 1965 war was published in 1977. Shaukat Rizas book was officially sponsored and he was provided access to all records.
  3. However as all official publications are , the book was doctored and sanitized and the author did not enjoy the right to critical analysis. The book nevertheless has great value. First it contains almost all major orders of battles of all major formations . Second it gives a clear picture of major events of the war. Third it manages to give insights about some most decisive battles of the 1965 war. Most interesting battle of Gadgor where Shaukat Riza described how clueless the 24 Brigade commander was when the Indian 1st Armoured Division broke in and all he could say was “ Nisar, Do Something”.
  4. Brigadier Shaukat Riza’s analysis of Operation Grand Slam is also reasonably critical.  where he faults 12 Division with bad handling of artillery and dispersing artillery fire. He totally misses out how armour was divided by 12 Division on first day of the war thus leading to failure although B Squadron 11 Cavalry had reached Chhamb at Tawi River at 0830 Hours in the morning. However with regard to change of command it appears that major general shaukat riza was forced to give legitimacy to the post 1965 pakistan army whitewash, i.e that change of command of operation grand slam was pre planned and not a surprise as was mostly believed. His treatment of Pakistan Armys First Armoured Division attack is critical and incisive.He admits that whole 4 cavalry. was captured by the Indians .Further he admits that there was much exaggeration of enemy strength in the reporting of armoured division commanders at various levels. When he describes how various brigades of Pakistans 1st armoured division were ordered left and right away from the scene of attack he hints at a Pakistan Army general headquarters deeply afflicted and paralysed by supreme indecision, vacillation and irresolution.
  5. The maps of the book are weak in details of what actually happened merely showing topgraphic details while what formations actually did is left to the readers imagination. However when we received this book via the army book club in 1985-86 this was a revolutionary development as till that time censorship had deeply plagued the cause of military history in Pakistan. Much blame of the failure was passed to ZA Bhutto while Generals Ayub and Musa were presented as innocent bystander pure maidens !
  6. One must admit that the general was handicapped by too many cooks doctoring his book and practicing sycophancy with the usurper and dictator zia , at the height of his power. Even General Mc Chrystal confessed that his book was subjected to some kind of official censorship and sanitization. This is the cost of becoming generals in any army where a man has to compromise over many things . As Sir Francis Bacon brilliantly summed it up , men gain dignities through indignities.
  7.  Major General Saeeduz Zaman Janjua many times recounted how even General Asif Nawaz , although his close relative , had to be obsequious and flexible with his seniors , as a brigadier and major general , failing which he would not have been promoted. Particularly he recounted a situation where a very senior officers son was caught cheating in the Pakistan Military Academy and General Asif Nawaz had to stop at relegation while the minimum punishment was withdrawal from the academy. This is how the world moves and only those who compromise and submit climb high in the so called systems or hierarchies. A man with no war record but one who was all in all in Pakistan of 1984.A sad year like George Orwells book 1984.
  8.  The book ignores how badly Pakistan Army was organized with formations like 12 Division holding an area of responsibility occupied by some five Indian divisions. What stopped Ayub Khan from raising 5 more divisional headquarters in 12 Division area of responsibility. At least this book gave us some idea about what had happened and a skeleton structure to construct a more detailed picture. His two later books Pakistan Army 1947- 59 and Pakistan Army 1966-71 were also similarly handicapped by censorship and sanitization by the Pakistan Army GHQ but more of this in subsequent book reviews.

Continue reading “Book Review: The 1965 War by Shaukat Riza”

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Letter of General Akhtar Malik (Re Grand Slam)

There is endless controversy in Pakistan about the way Gen Akhtar Malik, who led the opening phase of Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir in 1965 (operation Grand Slam) was removed from command the day after the attack started. The Pakistan army had decisive superiority in tanks and artillery and on the first day captured Chamb and were threatening to break through towards Akhnur, but on the 2nd day of operations there was an abrupt change in command as Gen Malik was replaced by Gen Yahya Khan. This led to some delay and gave the Indians the chance to reinforce their defenses. Many in Pakistan blame this command change for the failure of Grand Slam. You can read more about the operation in another post. The controversy will no doubt continue. Here is a letter from Gen Malik to his brother, written 2 years after the war, which gives his version of events (I received this via Major Amin).
Gen Akhter Hussain Malik’s Letter to His Brother Gen Abdul Ali Malik
My Dear brother,
I hope you and the family are very well. Thank you for your letter of 14 Oct. 67. The answers to your questions are as follows:
a. The de facto command changed the very first day of the ops [operations] after the fall of Chamb when Azmat Hayat broke off wireless communications with me. I personally tried to find his HQ [headquarters] by chopper and failed. In late afternoon I sent Gulzar and Vahid, my MP [military police] officers, to try and locate him, but they too failed. The next day I tore into him and he sheepishly and nervously informed me that he was ‘Yahya’s brigadier’. I had no doubt left that Yahya had reached him the previous day and instructed him not to take further orders from me, while the formal change in command had yet to take place. This was a betrayal of many dimensions.
b. I reasoned and then pleaded with Yahya that if it was credit he was looking for, he should take the overall command but let me go up to Akhnur as his subordinate, but he refused. He went a step further and even changed the plan. He kept banging his head against Troti, letting the Indian fall back to Akhnur. We lost the initiative on the very first day of the war and never recovered it. Eventually it was the desperate stand at Chawinda that prevented the Indians from cutting through.
c. At no time was I assigned any reason for being removed from command by Ayub, Musa or Yahya. They were all sheepish at best. I think the reasons will be given when I am no more.
d. Not informing pro-Pak Kashmiri elements before launching Gibraltar was a command decision and it was mine. The aim of the op was to de freeze the Kashmir issue, raise it from its moribund state, and bring it to the notice of the world. To achieve this aim the first phase of the op was vital, that is, to effect undetected infiltration of thousands across the CFL [cease-fire line]. I was not willing to compromise this in any event. And the whole op could be made stillborn by just one double agent.
e. Haji Pir [Pass] did not cause me much anxiety. Because [the] impending Grand Slam Indian concentration in Haji Pir could only help us after Akhnur, and they would have to pull out troops from there to counter the new threats and surrender their gains, and maybe more, in the process. Actually it was only after the fall of Akhnur that we would have encashed the full value of Gibraltar, but that was not to be!
f. Bhutto kept insisting that his sources had assured him that India would not attack if we did not violate the international border. I however was certain that Gibraltar would lead to war and told GHQ so. I needed no op intelligence to come to this conclusion. It was simple common sense. If I got you by the throat, it would be silly for me to expect that you will kiss me for it. Because I was certain that war would follow, my first choice as objective for Grand Slam was Jammu. From there we could have exploited our success either toward Samba or Kashmir proper as the situation demanded. In any case whether it was Jammu or Akhnur, if we had taken the objective, I do not see how the Indians could have attacked Sialkot before clearing out either of these towns.
g. I have given serious consideration to writing a book, but given up the idea. The book would be the truth. And truth and the popular reaction to it would be good for my ego. But in the long run it would be an unpatriotic act. It will destroy the morale of the army, lower its prestige among the people, be banned in Pakistan, and become a textbook for the Indians. I have little doubt that the Indians will never forgive us the slight of 65 and will avenge it at the first opportunity. I am certain they will hit us in E. Pak [East Pakistan] and we will need all we have to save the situation. The first day of Grand Slam will be fateful in many ways. The worst has still to come and we have to prepare for it. The book is therefore out.
I hope this gives you the gist of what you needed to know. And yes, Ayub was fully involved in the enterprise. As a matter of fact it was his idea. And it was he who ordered me to by-pass Musa while Gibraltar etc. was being planned. I was dealing more with him and Sher Bahadur than with the C-in-C. It is tragic that despite having a good military mind, the FM’s [Foreign Minister Z.A. Bhutto’s] heart was prone to give way. The biggest tragedy is that in this instance it gave way before the eruption of a crisis. Or were they already celebrating a final victory!!
In case you need a more exact description of events, I will need war diaries and maps, which you could send me through the diplomatic bag.
Please remember me to all the family.
Yours,
Akhtar Hussain Malik
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Does Trump Have a Strategy in Afghanistan? What is it?

This is an old post from Major Amin (from 2017) The article is by Dr D Souza (originally in “Eurasian Review”) and Major Amin’s own comments are in bolded black font.. Now that the Afghanistan exit strategy is in full flow, how does this stand up?

Trump’s ‘New’ Afghanistan Strategy And India-US Strategic Partnership – Analysis

Donald Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia announced on 21 August, was intended to highlight the novelty and surprise elements of a roadmap that purportedly sought little short of the decimation of terrorism. For all that, the ‘new’ strategy, its overheated semantics and studious ambiguity notwithstanding, in reality is but a continuation of the American trial and error method that has kept insurgent aspirations of a victory alive these 16 years since the US intervened in Afghanistan.
THIS IS A VERY MISCONCEIVED ASSERTION BY MS D SOUZA. THE NEW TRUMP STRATEGY IS TANGIBLE , PRECISE , WELL ARTICULATED , WELL SPELT OUT AND NOT SEMANTICS.
FIRST TRUMP STRATEGY HAS FOR THE FIRST TIME SPELT OUT THAT USA IN AFGHANISTAN IS DEALING NOT WITH NON STATE ACTORS BUT WITH A STATE PROXY I.E AFGHAN TALIBAN PROXIES OF THE PAKISTANI STATE.
 
THIS IS A RADICAL DEPARTURE FROM ABSOLUTE LACK OF MORAL COURAGE OR STRATEGIC RESOLUTION AS EXHIBITED BY BOTH PRESIDENTS BUSH AND OBAMA. 
 
THIS CHANGES THE US OBJECTIVES FROM PUNY THIRD RATE SNUFF SELLERS LIKE BAITULLAH MEHSUD BEING KILLED BY US DRONES TO STRATEGIC TARGETS WHICH ARE STATES AND NOT NON STATE ACTORS.
THE TRUMP STRATEGY AS PUBLICLY RELEASED DID NOT PRECISELY STATE THAT PAKISTAN WAS THE “MAIN ENEMY” BUT ITS CLASSIFIED PORTIONS AS PER HIGHLY PLACED SOURCES STATE THAT PAKISTANI STATE WAS CLEARLY SPECIFIED AS WHAT CARLOTTA GALL COINED ” THE MAIN ENEMY”.
After spending much blood and treasure, has the US learnt from its mistakes? Is the present strategy a break with the past? Or is it a mere continuation of a policy with no defined objectives and outcomes? India must consider carefully its desired terms of engagement for any serious partnership with the US in Afghanistan. Ahead of US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to New Delhi on 25 September, New Delhi needs to use the opportunity to tell Washington of the shortcomings of the present Afghan policy.
THE ASSERTION BY MS D SOUZA THAT THE USA HAS SPENT MUCH BLOOD IS ALSO SEMANTICS AND NOT BASED ON HARD FACTS. AFGHANISTAN WAS OCCUPIED WITH ONLY ONE CIA CIVILIAN KILLED BECAUSE OF HIS OWN RASHNESS AND US CASUALTIES IN 7 YEARS OF PRESIDENT BUSH DID NOT EXCEED 394 . 1400 US SOLDIERS WERE LOST BECAUSE OF SHEER AMATEUR BEHAVIOUR OF PRESIDENT OBAMA WITH ARM CHAIR STRATEGISTS LIKE REIDEL AND OTHERS DURING THE SURGE WHICH WAS APOLOGY OF ANYTHING THAT CAN BE CALLED STRATEGY.

Ambiguities and Novelty

President Donald J. Trump addresses the nation on the South Asia strategy during a press conference at Conmy Hall on Fort Myer, Virginia, Aug. 21, 2017. (Photo Credit: DOD photo by Sgt. Amber Smith)
President Donald J. Trump addresses the nation on the South Asia strategy during a press conference at Conmy Hall on Fort Myer, Virginia, Aug. 21, 2017. (Photo Credit: DOD photo by Sgt. Amber Smith)
After all the opposition for the war in Afghanistan he unleashed over the years via social media, especially in his election campaign, when push came to shove, Donald Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, elaborated on 21 August 2017 chose the least bad option, the one which would have the least resistance and would provide room for maneuver to match the domestic needs and geopolitical interests. Despite tall claims of having studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle, Trump strategy’s on Afghanistan is neither new nor comprehensive.
New Delhi needs to remain cautious before embracing this ambiguous strategy. Among its many ambiguities, three are especially worth considering:

Kinetic vs Non-kinetic

First, the strategy, apparently scripted by the US military, is not about nation building but kinetic operations, search and destroy by another name. Getting a free hand on the ground with no micro-management from Washington is a victory of sorts for the US generals in Afghanistan.  Still, much confusion abounds as to whether the strategy is counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism plus, or an overt reliance on the use of military force. Moving away from the earlier time-based approach to one based on conditions is certainly appropriate. In this, Trump has addressed the error of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who in December 2009 had announced troop surge and exit at the same time. This only worked to insurgent advantage, allowing an approach of ‘waiting out the enemy’.
KINETIC IS THE ONLY THING IN A LAND OF COLD BLOODED ASSASINS WHO WERE PACIFIED BY MONGOLS , MUGHALS AND PERSIANS WITH MASSIVE MASSACRES.THIS IS A SCENARIO WHERE VULGARLY PUT NO ONE ACKNOWLEDGES YOU AS THEIR FATHER TILL YOU LAY THEIR MOTHER. KINETIC IS THE ONLY SOLUTION AND DID WORK UNDER GENGHIS KHAN , TAMERLANE AND BABAR.THE HINDU RAJPUT MUGHAL GOVERNOR OF KABUL CARRIED ONLY A WALKING STICK ! BECAUSE THE MUGHALS UNDER BABAR HAD SORTED OUT AFGHANISTAN.
Yet there is no indication whether the intent is to convert Afghanistan into a new South Korea, where US troops are indefinitely based, or something else. A conditions-based approach is preferable to the mistaken announcement of a time schedule, but there is nothing to indicate what will be done to address those conditions that are fueling extremism and violence. Further, the apparent decoupling of kinetic and non-kinetic elements of the strategy, the military and civilian components, will limit the gains achieved through kinetic operations. Claiming that all of this will be something more than smoke and mirrors is guaranteed, Trump proclaimed, by the application of will.  Unlike Obama, he implied, this time the US will fight to win. To point out the sheer profligacy of such a pronouncement seems almost a waste of effort.
MAKING SWEEPING JUDGEMENTS AND DISMISSING A PRESIDENT WHO HAS A STRATEGY WHICH HAS BEEN SPELT OUT IS NOT GOOD JOURNALISM AND THAT TOO FROM AN AUTHOR WHO HAS NOT REALLY VISITED THE ACTUAL BATTLE FIELDS OF AFGHAN WAR.

Role of Regional powers

Second, Trump has not identified any benchmarks and targets for actions. This keeps the expectation bar low but also does not address the basic component of metrics.  Neither has he expressed in any clear terms expected steps to be taken by Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, or even the US itself. Most importantly, the role of other major regional powers such as Russia, China, Iran, UAE, and Saudi Arabia remains undefined. Afghanistan’s tragedy lies in the fact that its internal contradictions have been exploited by external powers. Without a regional strategy, the external powers will continue along this path, notably neighbouring Pakistan.
PRESIDENT TRUMPS STRATEGY CLEARLY IDENTIFIES PAKISTAN AS THE CULPRIT AND THE WHOLE STRATEGY IS BASED ON THIS DEMISE. THIS HAS CREATED JITTERS IN PAKISTAN AND THE PAKISTANI ARMY CHIEF AND HIS ISI HAVE BEEN DOING A LOT OF RUNNING AROUND.

Safe haven

Third, every US president is aware of Pakistan’s role and interests in supporting the terrorist groups in Afghanistan. It is perhaps the first time that a US president has stated this publicly, but it is not as though the reality has not hitherto figured into planning. Nevertheless, there it was: ‘Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,’ Trump stated unambiguously. Unspecified was just what coercive instruments could be brought to play to change Pakistan’s behaviour.
Trump’s critique of Pakistan is in line with New Delhi and Kabul’s position on the external support and sanctuary provided to the insurgent and terrorist groups that are the source of Afghanistan’s instability. That Pakistan has been a mendacious ally in the US-led war on terror, sheltering terror groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani network, and using them as strategic assets in Afghanistan, despite the aid of more than US $33 billion being given to Pakistan in the last decade and half for the counter-terrorism cooperation.
HAQQANI NETWORK IS A MINOR PLAYER IN TERMS OF NUMBERS OF US SOLDIERS KILLED. THE MAIN ACTOR IN NUMBER OF US SOLDIERS KILLED IS THE QUETTA SHURA OR THE MULLA OMAR GROUP BASED IN PAKISTANI BALOCHISTAN.

Strategic Partnership in Afghanistan

The sudden recognition by Trump of New Delhi’s concerns needs to be received with caution in view of the role he wishes to assign New Delhi as a strategic ally andfurther develop thestrategic partnership with India. The proof lies in the pudding. Even as Pakistan considers cozying up to China as its safety-valve, the strategy has been welcomed in Kabul and New Delhi.  In spite of Trump’s awkward mentioning first of India’s substantial trade benefits from good relations with the US – before  elaborating on his expectations from New Delhi ‘to do more’ – New Delhi has welcomed the strategy. It is seen as a nod to the importance of India’s economic and development assistance thus far and an acknowledgement that without India’s soft power, things could be much worse.

Counter terrorism cooperation

Though mentioning the fact that at least 20 US-designated foreign terrorist organisations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world, Trump’s strategy appears geared towards targeting al-Qaeda and the ISIS. If the US is still looking for apolitical settlement with the Taliban, New Delhi will have to make sure that this is done by the Afghan government through an open, inclusive, and accountable process.
Moreover, New Delhi needs to tell Washington that the targeting of terrorists groups cannot be selective and must include groups that are detrimental to India’s security interests, as well.  Any robust counter-terrorism cooperation with the US will need to address issues of funding, training, and support provided to these groups.

Non-kinetic Approach

India has pledged more than US$3 billion for various civilian capacity building, infrastructure and development projects in Afghanistan.  This has brought it significant good will among the Afghans. By avoiding a narrow security dominated approach, India is seen as a neutral partner and not a party to the conflict. It is prudent, then, for New Delhi to stay clear of involvement in the kinetic side of the equation, while simultaneously urging the US to play a more meaningful non-kinetic role in institution building and reform.
This goes against the Trump administration’s stated goal of avoiding nation-building, yet any military strategy divorced from building strong institutions of governance and service delivery is unlikely to translate kinetic gains into tangible political outcomes. A mere addition of over 3,000 troops to Afghanistan, where they will bolster the approximately 11,000 American forces already there will not make much impact unless there is a clarity of the mission, rules of engagement and outcome, in addition to building effective and responsive governance institutions.
There is serious possibility that the US is looking to India to perform the non-kinetic component while the US engages in what certain figures feel it does best, kinetics.  This would be a thankless position for New Delhi to be in which could entail burden-sharing and risk strategic distortion as concerns its interests.
ALL INDIAN AID WILL GO INTO DUST IF THEIR IS NO KINETIC ENERGY IN THE AFGHAN SCENARIO.

Long drawn out war

Likewise, the role of private contractors in the push to outsource the war; the continued dependence upon warlords, power-brokers and militias for support of counter-insurgency operations; the use of air power as a surrogate for actual engagement, together with inadequate human intelligence (HUMINT) resulting in collateral damage and increase in civilian casualties, all need to be clarified. The potential for New Delhi to be caught in the blowback from Washington’s ill-considered approaches must be considered.
Skeptics are already highlighting that by lumping its Afghan with its South Asia (India and Pakistan) strategy, the Trump administration runs the danger of not only intensifying the India-Pakistan competition but also intensifying regional competition as Pakistan seeks succour from the likes of China, Russia, and Iran. The dangers of such competition, notwithstanding, Pakistan will need to compete with India on the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan which will accrue good will from the Afghans. At the moment, the popular sentiment for Pakistan remains very low.
A weak and unstable Afghanistan has been a primary objective of its predatory neighbours.  Leaving to the side the reality that countries like Pakistan are not simply going to give up this quest, regardless of US positions or threats, there is the fundamental necessity for any American strategy that has any hope of success to work towards building a strong and stable Afghan state that will make the subversive campaigns of these neighbours and their proxies difficult.

Institution building and reform

This can be achieved by institution building and reforms in the security, political, economic, and governance sectors. The Trump administration has refrained from making clear long term commitments. The time to do so is now.
In the security sector, there remains a need for better training, equipment, vetting, and policing capabilities, as well as an increase in Afghan airpower capability. The latter element alone, if inadequate, seems all but to guarantee that the gains achieved through kinetic operations will be simply lost.
In the political sector, in addition to revamping the indigenous institutions for peace and reconciliation such as the High Peace Council, reconciled and reintegrated fighters will need opportunities for employment and acceptability as they transition back into society. More importantly, as Afghanistan heads to another round of presidential and much delayed parliamentary elections in 2019 and 2018, respectively, systems, procedures, and logistics need to be put in place to avoid the messy elections outcomes of previous years. These have seriously impacted the credibility and functioning of the Afghan government. Greater decentralisation will help popular participation on the margins. The limits of an overly centralised form of governance of last decade and half are evident.
A legitimate government that delivers to the people the basic services is essential to any hope of victory, however defined. A clean, responsive and accountable governance system under the rule of law is essential to build the trust of the populace and deprive the insurgents of their support. If this seems so much pie-in-the-sky, then there hardly seems any point in being involved. Just what the announced US strategy is to contribute to such an end-state is puzzling.

Prospects for India-U.S. partnership in Afghanistan

If India and U.S. intend to work together in denying these groups and their sponsors any space in Afghanistan, the first step will be to chalk out a comprehensive and long term plan along with the Afghan government to build a strong and stable Afghanistan that will be an antidote to these forces at play and predatory neighbours. The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by New Delhi with Kabul in October 2011, provides a good template. As US adopts a kinetic approach towards Afghanistan, New Delhi will have to spell the conditions for any cooperation to take this strategic partnership ahead.
For New Delhi to partner with US development and aid agencies, such as USAID, there is a need for integrated planning to provide market access for the products produced, accompanied by skill-based training for small and medium enterprises for income generation and boosting domestic production. Continuing instability has enabled neighbouring countries to pour in cheap goods, thus, stunting Afghanistan’s indigenous economic revival and growth.
New Delhi will have to tread carefully in the shifting sands inside Afghanistan and the region. Rather than rushing into the American embrace, New Delhi’s primary objective must be to fulfill its obligations as Kabul’s strategic partner. Trump has sought an honourable and enduring outcome, the contours of which remain unknown. Ahead of US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to New Delhi on 25 September, which will be followed by secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s visit, New Delhi needs to use the opportunity to tell Washington of the shortcomings of the present Afghan policy. The Afghans have long looked to a friendly India to play this role of a serious interlocutor. India should step up to the plate commensurate with its rising power status and aspirations.
NEW DELHI WILL REMAIN A MINOR PLAYER IN THE AFGHAN WAR. IT DOES NOT HAVE THE GEOPOLITICAL MUSCLE TO RESTRUCTURE AFGHANISTAN. WHERE NEW DELHI CAN MATTER IS IN CAPACITY BUILDING OF AFGHAN STATE BOTH POLITICAL MILITARY AND ECONOMIC AND IN PRESSURISING PAKISTAN.THE GEOPOLITICAL PART OF RESTRUCTURING IS WHITE MANS BURDEN AND THE USA HAS TO ACCEPT THIS FACT.
AFGHANISTAN IS A US STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY TO DESTABILISE CHINA AND RUSSIA AND KEEP AN EYE ON PAKISTAN AND IRAN AND NOT A CALAMITY AS PESSIMISTS VIEW IT.

Continue reading “Does Trump Have a Strategy in Afghanistan? What is it?”

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Direct Participants Remember the 1977 Zia Coup

From Major Amin. These are snippets of conversation that he has sent. The participants include several retired officers who were direct participants or observers of Zia’s coup in 1977. Their memories are worth a look, even if the post is disjointed and some words probably need context not known to an outsider..

Major Amin: my father was CC Engrs 4 Corps and on 4 July 1977 iqbal khan gathered all officers and congratulated them that an agreement had been reached

I interviewed brig imtiaz warraich —-

You were Commander 111 Brigade in 1977. Please describe in detail all that you saw, and all the actions connected with Zia’s military takeover on 5th July 1977?

Brig Warraich: 111 Brigade is located in West Ridge Rawalpindi and was under command Headquarter 10 Corps. Lieutenant General F.A Chishti was the Corps Commander. This operation took place on the night of July 5, 1977 resulting into the imposition of martial law.General Mohammad Zia ul Haq the then COAS became the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Normally a question is asked as to how early were you as Commander 111 Brigade taken into confidence. My answer is only a few hours prior to the commencement of the operation on night July 5, 1977.

I recall that about fifteen days earlier I had requested for one month leave to prepare for my war course. Initially the leave was sanctioned but after three to four days I was recalled. In retrospect, gives an impression that at higher level this contingency might have been considered much earlier. I also recall that two three days prior to this operation Zia remarked that negotiations between the government and PNA are reaching a dead end and the situation is likely to worsen .I spontaneously remarked “Sir, if they are given some more time Sihala Parleys might see some tangible results”.On my uncalled for remarks the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was startled and uneasy. Later I learnt that due to an element of uncertainty a major general was called and the impending operation was not changed. It appeared that the new incumbent was either not considered exuberant enough for the task in hand or due to shortage of time status quo was accepted.

On the fateful night at about 11:30 P.M, Chief of Staff 10 Corps personally came and conveyed the orders to me. There was a danger of civil war situation emerging, therefore, army had decided to intervene and take the higher political leadership both of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) into custody. Names of eleven leaders from PPP mostly Federal Ministers and nine senior leaders from PNA were identified who were to be brought to Officers Mess, Headquarters 10 Corps Chaklala.

Within half an hour on receipt of the orders I held my orders group (O Group).On night July 5, 1977 I had six infantry battalions under command, four of my own and two ex 23 Division Jhelum, which were already there on Internal Security Duties in Rawalpindi. The principal task that we were required to perform was to constitute about twenty parties each headed by an officer with six other ranks, each to escort one VIP/Leaders from their residences to Chaklala. Guard Battalion 6 Baluch at PM House was to remain in location without any task. There were many other duties for which units were earmarked but these were not of great consequence.

We discovered that most of the ministers were living in Islamabad. Officers and men who had gone to escort them found it very difficult to locate their residences. Luckily within the stipulated time we were able to bring all the leaders of both parties to Chaklala.I may point out that all junior officers and men were given explicit orders to remain very respectful and courteous to the senior politicians and ministers, hence, no untoward incident took place.

When the task was accomplished by 0330 hours and all leaders had assembled in Headquarters 10 Corps, the army chief General Zia spoke to the ex Prime Minister on telephone that he had imposed Martial Law in the country therefore,Prime Minister would be escorted to Murree at seven O’clock in the morning. I may point out that during the whole operation no officer or troops entered the PM House and no disturbance was caused.

When I recall the events I find that when the morning came bigger people took over the charge and we once again were absorbed in our humble daily routine. During the subsequent years as we observed that a grand political manipulation commenced. Self- aggrandisement efforts to acquire most powerful jobs became the order of the day on part of most senior generals, some eminent politicians and technocrats. National interest as usual took the rear seat and was of secondary importance.

Zahid Zaman Brig: I am following the very interesting discussion about the imposition of martial law. I was acting gso1 16 div since Jan 1977 and involved in Balochistan operations. On April 26 we were ordered to move to Karachi where a local ML had been imposed. I moved with a small party from Temple Dera now Dera Murad Jamali reaching Karachi early morning 28 April.  Through a court order,these MLs were lifted in May 77. The GOC Late Lt Gen SM Abassi was called to GHQ we moved to Quetta in early June. On morning 5th July I was told that a Top Secret document has arrived to be collected by an officer from the signal centre and it was done. The document was the agreement likely between the govt and PNA. While still studying and reading the agreement,I was told to personally go and receive a flash signal. I got it, and it was the order imposing martial law. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Major Shahid Rahman: Zahid Zaman, Sir,  it was decided much earlier by the then COAS, Gen Zia, that he wanted to remove Bhutto. The Late Maj Gen Abdullah Malik, who had been our Bde Comd in East Pakistan, and was CGS in 1977, used to live close to my place in Islamabad after retirement. I had also joined the company he had raised with  Brig Mian Mahmud in the 1980s. 

He used to tell us, that from April, 1977 onwards in every meeting the Chief would be ridiculing  PM Bhutto, and making gestures to see how many of his generals are of the same mindset as himself. 

If I remember correctly, he told me, a meeting in April, 1977 in GHQ was the defining moment, when the Chief indicated, ‘we should be ready ‘..

We still don’t know,  what really happened which made Gen Zia  make a Uturn on Bhutto…

[11:24, 7/18/2019] Zahid Zaman Brig: I agree with. In May77, there was a naval cadets passing out parade in their academy. Gen Tikka Khan,who was the defence minister was to be the chief guest. The GOC asked me if I had been invited and gave an affirmative to that. He told me to accompany him along with my wife. I had been allowed to bring my wife to Karachi. We were to leave early as the GOC said the bridge connecting the mainland will be removed after 0800 hrs. In the evening while discussing the days happenings,Gen Abassi said let us skip the passing out and let Gen Tikka take his last salute. This was a clear indication to me of things to come. Any way once ML in Karachi was lifted, the GOC asked me to make list of all files and hand them over to HQ 5 Corps. . the GOC asked me to make list of all files and hand them over to HQ 5 Corps. He said after that I could leave for Quetta while he will go to GHQ Pindi. He said the chief has tasked him to prepare plan for holding elections under army supervision. Later after imposition of Martial Law throughout the country,Gen Abassi told me ,told me it was not for election but ML that he was called to plan.

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Why did Bhutto Select Zia as Chief

Because Zia was a world champion at sucking up to him.

An interesting snippet from Major Agha Amin

FROM MY MARCH 2001 INTERVIEW WITH MAJ GEN NUK BABAR SJ AND BAR —-Why did Mr Bhutto select Zia as a coas?

There were a number of reasons and these were discussed with me personally by Mr Bhutto, while in detention at Murree. One was the pretended humility and this disarmed Mr Bhutto into the belief that he would pose no threat to the nascent democracy. Secondly, his performance when he invited Mr Bhutto to the centenary celebrations of 11 cavalry at Kharian. He took pains to ascertain Mr Bhutto’s tailor in Karachi (Hamid Khan) and had a Blue Patrols as Colonel-in-Chief of Armoured Corps. On entering the room, Mr Bhutto found a suitcase on his bed and on inquiry was told that it contained the Blue Patrol. The next day, Mr Bhutto was requested to climb a tank and engage a target. Quite obviously the target was hit. Then was his performance while on deputation in Jordan, where he killed a large number of Palestinians (Black September), Mr Bhutto was led to the belief that if he was so loyal to Jordan, he would be even more loyal to Pakistan. His prime performance came at Multan, where he invited Mr Bhutto as Colonel-in-Chief. After the function, when Mr Bhutto had barely returned to Mr Sadiq Qureshi’s house, when he was informed that General Zia requested to meet him. Mr Bhutto was surprised, having met him in the mess a little earlier. However, he called him into Mr Sadiq Qureshi’s study/library. Gen Zia on entrance went round the Almirah, looking for something and on inquiry he revealed that he was looking for a copy of the Holy Quran. On finding a copy he placed his hand on and addressing Mr Bhutto he said, “You are the saviour of Pakistan and we owe it to you to be totally loyal to you”. Then was the fact that there was little to pick and choose amongst the other aspirants. The only other suitable candidate was General Majeed Malik who was Mr Bhutto’s favourite as a sound professional. Unfortunately was involved in the International Hotel Scandal where he was caught with Mustafa Khar. He was sent as Ambassador to Libya. Finally, of course was the American angle. They had picked Zia as suitable material at Fort Leavenworth, followed his career progress and possibly lobbied in his favour. They made it known to friends months in advance that he would be appointed coas. Zia’s obsequeous behaviour made Mr Bhutto think that he was a non-political man. Pakistani democracy was at an infant stage and could not afford an Army Chief with political ambitions. Then there was not much choice. Gen Sharif was considered politically unreliable since he had been very close to Ayub Khan. Jillani had no command experience and was the head of isi. Akbar Khan had not performed well as a goc 12 Division in Kashmir in 1971 war. Gen Aftab and AB Awan had no command potential and were not suitable.

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From @takhalus
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Book Review: Descent into Chaos

An old review from Major Amin, it remains topical.

Descent into Chaos , Ahmed Rashid, Allen Lane,2008.ISBN No .978-1-846-14175-1

Book Review

Major A.H Amin (Retired)

11 October 2008

Ahmed Rashid acquired fame and became darling of the west when his book on Taliban was published in 2000 or so.Descent into Chaos is another bestseller as far as publishing statistics is concerned.It is a tragedy that the West,guardian of the present worlds intellectual property projects what suits its political and social interests and stifles what it finds “ politically unacceptable”.Seen in this background what Ahmed Rashid writes is acceptable to the west.Possibly because what he says fits hand in glove with western perceptions about how to shape the future.

As normal the book has some factual errors.Some insignificant some not so insignificant and some which not have escaped the sagacity of a known Afghanistan hand like Ahmed Rashid. Continue reading “Book Review: Descent into Chaos”

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