By Dr. Nazir hussain & Adnan Bukhari

Dec 08, 2014

us nuclearIn September 2014, the Obama Administration unveiled a plan to invest billions of dollars over the next five years in defence spending programme to modernize the U.S. nuclear warheads. Chinese rise, North Korean nuclear weapon status and the Russian resurgence, particularly after the Ukrainian episode, can be considered the drivers for this move. However, this development runs contrary to the commitment of President Obama of ‘a world free of nuclear weapons’ which he made in 2009. Therefore, this article endeavours to analyze the U.S. plan to upgrade its nuclear arsenal and its impact on the global non-proliferation efforts.

Modernizing the U.S. nuclear warheads

The Obama administration, in the first term, promised to spend $84 billion to upgrade its aging nuclear weapons over the next decade, an increase of $14 billion in $70 billion modernization budget. The New York Times reported that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Obama administrations plans to revitalize nuclear warheads would cost $355 billion over the next decade. These costs have more chances to grow as strategic warheads developed in the last century would need modernization in the years to come. This money would be invested for eight major plants and laboratories, employing more than 40,000 people. Moreover, there are plans for building new missile submarines, more than 100 new bombers and 400 land-based missiles between 2024 and 2029. The proposed plans would cost about $900 billion to $1.1 trillion in the next three decades.

The process of modernization in the nuclear programme started from February 2014. It was aimed at internal and external review of the entire Defence Department, nuclear expertise which would include, inter alia, upgrading Air Force helicopter fleet and improving the morale of the force by investing in personnel and training. For this purpose, the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command established a Force Improvement Programme that allocated $161 million to ICBM force support in FY 14 and has identified $150 million in FY 2015 for equipment, facilities and personnel. The Air Force would add nearly 1,000 (military and civilian) billets for Global Strike Command. The Navy would hire 2,450 civilian shipyards and 100 personnel for Strategic Weapons Facility and TRIDENT Training Facility to improve sustainability and training of the ballistic missile submarine force. The U.S. would also replace ICBM security force helicopter fleet of UH-1s in this modernization programme.

The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review: acclaimed goals and contradictions

The U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture are contained in its policy document; Nuclear Posture Review, which is a legislatively-mandated review for the next five to ten years. Currently, the US nuclear doctrine is codified in its Nuclear Posture Review 2010.

The document states that prevention of nuclear terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation remain the top policy agendas for the U.S. However, the administration, in its proposed 2015 budget, chose to cut nuclear non-proliferation programmes in the Energy Department by $399 million, while increasing spending on nuclear weapons by $534 million, according to an analysis by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

President Barak Obama had convinced the Republicans on new START Treaty with Russia, which was aimed at reduction in deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 down from 2,200 by 2018. Though the U.S. supports that reduction in the number of nuclear weapons would contribute to the U.S. obligation of Article VI of disarmament, yet it would also maintain a credible nuclear deterrence and reinforce regional security architecture with missile defences for the security of its non-nuclear allies.

The policy document also states that the U.S. would modernize its aging nuclear programme and invest in human capital so that it could reduce the numbers of warheads and accelerate dismantlement of retired warheads. This statement in itself is contradictory because at one place, it calls for dismantling retired warheads and, on the other hand, calls for modernizing its aging programme. It is perplexing to understand that the NPR stated that the U.S. would reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy but, at the same time, called for maintaining strategic deterrence and stability at reduced nuclear force levels and sustaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal through modernization of its strategic nuclear warheads deployed on ICBM, SLBM and Strategic Bombers.

Therefore, the U.S. would like to sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal. In this regard, the NPR recommended full funding of the LEP (Life Extension Programme) for the W-76 submarine-based warhead and the LEP study and follow-on activities for the B-61 bomb; and initiating a study of LEP options for the W-78 ICBM warhead, including the possibility of using the resulting warhead also on SLBMs. All of these types of warhead are thermo nuclear weapons. The LEP is aimed at repairing /replacing components of nuclear weapons to ensure the ability to meet military requirements, thereby providing them extension for being in stockpiles.

Changing nuclear order

In the wake of the changing nuclear order, the world is facing multiple complex challenges in the non-proliferation regime. It would be pertinent to look at these challenges in view of Pentagon’s quest for modernizing nuclear aging programme and the U.S. position in dealing with these issues. These issues range from finalizing a nuclear deal with Iran, dealing with North Korean case, nuclear arms race in South Asia and the U.S. pressure on Pakistan for negotiating FMCT.

It is strange to assume that the U.S. is increasing its budget for nuclear enterprise which is aimed at revitalizing its old nuclear weapons and, on the other hand, bringing Iran on board for a nuclear deal. The U.S. diplomacy of double standards marks negative precedents.

North Korea emerged as a nuclear weapon state, having capability of inter-continental ballistic missile, which creates a threatening environment not only for the U.S. but for the region and international peace and security. That depends on how the U.S. diplomacy would deal with this challenge.

The South Asian quagmire of nuclear arms race is another source of concern. The Indo-U.S. strategic partnership, particularly in the nuclear realm, has necessitated Pakistan to compete in the Indian-imposed nuclear arms race. The Indo-U.S. nexus has put Pakistan in a perpetual dilemma of maintaining strategic balance in the region. The U.S. insistence on Pakistan for negotiating the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty does not hold water in view of the U.S. nuclear modernization programme. The U.S. has lost the moral position to ask Pakistan for an FMCT amid its own nuclear weapons modernization programme.


In the wake of Obama’s goal of Global Zero, envisioned in 2009 and winning the support of Republicans on new START Treaty with Russia (which was aimed at reduction in deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 down from 2,200 by 2018), the U.S. plan of modernizing its aging nuclear weapons programme with a cost of about $900 billion to $1.1 trillion in the next three decades is a dichotomy between national security and global peace. These plans, estimates and figures are in open contrast to the U.S. professed goals and its realist actions. The plan in fact acclaims Obama’s statement that the goal of disarmament might not be possible in his lifetime. It may weaken the U.S. position to talk with Iran, dealing with North Korea and asking Pakistan for FMCT. Above all, revitalization of U.S. nuclear programme would make Obama’s goal of global zero a distant reality.

By Dr. Nazir Hussain

Nov 18, 2014

ISISThe surfacing of Islamic State (IS) and its inroads in Iraq and Syria have given rise to grave concerns to the stability and security of the region with devastating effects, despite the U.S.-led counter-force to check its advances in the region. The IS (also known as Daʿesh) has declared Global Islamic Caliphate under Abu Bakar-Al Baghdadi, giving rise to growing concerns by the regional states and Western powers alike. What its origin and objectives are and how it is going to affect the regional politics is the focus of this article.

Origin and Evolution

Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi were two prominent figures of Al-Qaeda. Al-Zarqawi was an Arab of Jordanian descent and had commanded volunteers in Herat, Afghanistan, before fleeing to northern Iraq in 2001. In Iraq, he joined with Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam), a militant Kurdish separatist movement. Later, Al-Zaqawi founded Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīdwa-al-Jihād; Organization of Monotheism and Jihad (JTJ).Soon after the emergence of JTJ, differences emerged between Al-Zarqawi and OBL, mainly over the issue of Takfir (justified killing of Muslims); Zarqawi was in favor of this type of killing while Bin Laden was not ready to accept it. During this period, Al-Zarqawi was operating around Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria and Iraq, gaining new jihadist contacts, which resulted in the formation of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2003. Later, he brought together a number of other Iraqi insurgent factions and established the Majlis Shura al-Mujahedin (MSM) or Mujahedin Shura Council in January 2006. In June, Zarqawi was killed by the U.S. forces and the group was reshuffled.

In October 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council merged with several other insurgent factions and established the Dawlat al-ʻIraq al-Islāmīyah; Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). A cabinet was formed and Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi became ISI’s figurehead emir. In May 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed the new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. In August 2011, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi began sending Syrian and Iraqi ISI members experienced in guerrilla warfare across the border into Syria in order to establish an organization inside the country. In January 2012, the group announced its formation commonly known as Al-Nusra Front, which grew rapidly into a capable fighting force with popular support among Syrians opposed to the Assad regime.

In April 2013, overt enmity between ISIS and Al-Qaeda broke out in full when ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced that he was extending the Islamic State of Iraq into Syria and changing the group’s name to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. In June 2014, ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate (Islamic state) that erases all state borders, making al-Baghdadi the self-declared Caliph of the world’s estimated 1.5 billion Muslims. The group also announced a name change to the Islamic State (IS).


The pronounced major/long-term objectives of the IS are:

  • Establishment of ‘True Islamic State’ initially in Iraq and Syria,
  • Expansion of Islamic State in the region without current territorial boarders,
  • Restoration of Caliphate to lead global Muslim population,
  • Establishment of International Jihadi state to spread Jihad worldwide, and
  • Implementation of Sunni dominated Shariah (Islamic law).

The immediate/short-term objectives are:

  • Targeted assassination campaign against security forces in Iraq and Syria,
  • Destruction of personal property and infrastructure,
  • Ethnic cleansing of minorities: Shias, Kurds and Christians.

Regional and international supporters

Sunni Militia Group based in Iraq, Ba’ath Party loyalists and supporters of Saddam Hussain, besides the Free Iraqi Army, Free Syrian Army and Al Nusra Frontare are the supporters of the IS. However, it is very difficult to put all the supporters and opponents in black and white. There are complex grey areas within these groups. For instance, when it comes to control of Allepo, IS and Free Syrian Army are opponents, but are supporting each other to topple the Assad regime.

According to the documents of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), it is a fact that Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the current leader of IS, remained a prisoner by American forces in Iraq at Bucca Camp. Some reports say that detention period was of five years, while official claims are of a few months. Importantly, many wonder how such a high-value terrorist escaped from the American prison.

Israel is also believed to be supporting the armed groups inside Syria, but it is difficult to determine whether Israel is directly supporting the ISIS or Al-Nusra Front. However, according to a 15-page report by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the work of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), “UNDOF frequently observed armed members of the opposition interacting with IDF across the ceasefire line in the vicinity of United Nations position 85. The UNDOF observed armed members of the opposition transferring 47 wounded persons from the Bravo side across the ceasefire line to IDF, and IDF on the Alpha side handing over 43 treated individuals to the armed members of the opposition on the Bravo side.”

 The Canada-based think tank, Global Research: Centre for Research on Globalization, has mentioned a report of Jewish Telegraphic Agency (97-year-old Jewish wire service) that “a senior employee of the Dutch Justice Ministry said the jihadist group ISIS was created by Zionists seeking to give Islam a bad reputation.”

Turkey is indirectly supporting the IS to control the Kurds authority near Turkey’s boarders, besides some Gulf States, which are covertly supporting the IS insurgents in Iraq and Syria. Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of British Intelligence MI6, has claimed that “there is no doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the ISI’s surge into Sunni areas of Iraq.”

Implications for Middle East

The emergence of IS has posed a significant threat to regional and international security environment. The IS has challenged the regional interests of the U.S./West and also posed a threat to the stability and territorial integrity of the region. Other implications are:

  • Upon establishment of IS, the region will become a permanent battleground,
  • Will become a launching pad of Jihadi activities in the region and around the globe,
  • Christian minorities would have no future in Iraq, Syria and adjacent territories,
  • Will constitute a permanent threat to the Assad regime,
  • Future of Shia community is threatened: a large Shia community has already migrated,
  • Beyond the control over Kurds, Turkey’s national security will be undermined,
  • If the Islamic State emerges on the map, existing monarchies would be the next target of the self-declared Caliph of Global Muslim Community,
  • For now, the IS may be in the interest of Israel and U.S. policy in the region; however, it will be the biggest ever threat to both in future. That is why the U.S. has mobilized its forces against the IS.

Implications for Pakistan

Pakistan is passing through one of its toughest times as far as internal security situation is concerned; insurgency in some parts of Pakistan is still on. The rise of IS in the heart of the Middle East is not directly related to the insurgency inside Pakistan; however, Pakistan’s geo-political and geo-strategic contours are attractive for the proxies of these kinds of groups.

Although the government denies any presence of IS in Pakistan, the wall-chalking across Pakistan, from Karachi to Gilgit, is a serious concern for the Pakistanis. The most significant development took place in October 2014 when TTP spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, in a video message posted online said that “From today, I accept Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as my Caliph and will accept every directive of his and will fight for him whatsoever the situation.” He is not alone in pledging allegiance, but five other top commanders were also with him. He further added that, it is mandatory for Muslims to follow their Caliph and also requested Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to accept him as a follower. Alarmingly, on November 17, the Jandullah group operating in Baluchistan pledged its support to the IS.

In these circumstances, the rise of IS would be a direct threat to stability within Pakistan; sectarian violence will be further intensified. This phenomenon will not only be restricted to sectarian violence, but could be changed into a sectarian war in Pakistan. As the Islamic State does not believe in territorial division, the territory of Pakistan can be used as the base for global Jihadi activities. This may escalate the cross-border terrorism at the western boarders of Pakistan and an escalated insurgency in parts of Jammu and Kashmir. The rise of IS’s support inside Pakistan will harm relations with Iran, which will cast a direct impact on the economy of Pakistan.


The ideology of IS and the ideology of Islam are poles apart; there is no connection between these two ideologies. Muslim scholarly authorities, even those who support the Syrian rebels, have unanimously repudiated Baghdadi’s bogus Caliphate. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the best-known pro-Syrian-rebel, dismissively rejected Baghdadi’s claim. Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Al-Nahda Party, called Baghdadi’s self-promotion reckless, deceptive and ridiculous. The most important group working to restore the Caliphate, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, said that Baghdadi’s proclamation has distorted the reality of what a Caliphate is supposed to be. Even Al-Qaeda rejected al-Baghdadi’s claim and ripped IS for its brutality and spelled out its non-affiliation with any IS activity.

This organization cannot be called as peaceful by any means. It is not working for peace, but is rather contributing to instability of the region and such instability will be permanent if the IS succeeds in establishing a state. They are visionless; without any economic and political agenda. They are not capable of running a state in such an international system which demands cooperation and peaceful co-existence. Their survival as a state-actor is nearly impossible if they continue with their current strategy. Moreover, while the fight against IS and Islamic extremism is far from over, it is certain that it will take a long time for the Middle East, especially Syria and Iraq, to recover. Despite, its recent retreat from key areas of Iraq and Syria, the IS still projects a deadly/devastating future scenario for the Middle East; either as a non-state actor or an unrecognised ‘Islamic state.

By Muhammad Suleman

Nov 10, 2014

South Asia is one of the volatile region in the world. Its two major states India and Pakistan, seek security in deterrence stability, are at constantly daggers drawn against each other. Historically, both states have adopted maximalist approach towards security based on ceaseless arms race.

Nuclear weapons play a pivotal role in the strategic environment of South Asia. The strategic weapons of Pakistan serve as a deterrent against a proposed Indian attack. The advent of nuclear deterrence has acted as an ultimate guarantor of Pakistan’s security. In a number of crises and low intensity conflicts such as the Brasstacks Exercise of 1986-87, the 1990’sIndia-Pakistan Crisis, Kargil Conflict of 1999, Operation Para karam which occurred in 2001-02 andthe 2008’sMumbai Crisis,nuclear deterrence effectively prevented both sides from going into full scale war.

After 2001, India introduced several changes in its conventional military doctrine as well as its strategic force posture. Heavy war machinery is currently being purchased and forces modernized. Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) and Pro Active military operations have been introduced to fight limited war ‘under the nuclear overhang’. In order to weaken Pakistan’s ‘first use’ policy, India built Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system and conducted its first test in 2006. With the expected launching of INS Arihantnuclear submarine by India in 2015, it would complete its nuclear triad after achieving nuclear capable land based missiles and aircraft capabilities. The strategic superiority of Indiahas created asymmetry in the strategic environment of South Asia. India has not remain limiteditself to submarine, conventional or nuclear, but it is on the way of its own blue water navy.

The development of Indian BMD and nuclear submarine has causeda deterrence instability by provoking arms race in the region. Technically, BMD system is a defensive weapon which not only providesa shield against the enemy’s incoming missiles but it also rouses its host on a pre-emption against the enemy especially who lacks the BMD capability. Similarly, the nuclear submarine is a defensive-offensive capability and provides second strike capability even after absorbing the first strike. Both capabilities discourage the core essence of the nuclear deterrence between two rivals. In Pakistan-India context, the strategic superiority of India may not onlytempt the countryfor initiating first strike but it may also convince it to initiatea limited war against Pakistan ‘under the nuclear overhang’.

Pakistan has the capabilityto deliver its nuclear arsenals through land based missiles, aircraft, and is on the way to deploy its nuclear capable missiles on ships. In 2012, Pakistan inaugurated the “Naval Strategic-ForceCommand (NSFC)”in order to create a robust, effective, secure and credible nuclear deterrence through their “Naval Custodians”. In this context, nuclear capable Hatf-VII Babar cruise missile has been tested which can be launched from a ship and has a range up to 700 kilometers.

Currently, Pakistan’s second strike capability is based on a strategy to disperse its nuclear forces into different places of the country to protect them from enemy’s first strike. The dilemma with strategic forces whether land and ship based or aircrafts is that these aredetectable and vulnerable tofirst strike.

Technically, the nuclear submarine can be justified that it is not easily detectable and is considered as the most survivable ingredient of the nuclear triad. In the presence of nuclear triad capabilities, it is not possible for either side to launch a surprise attack or first strike due to the fear of mutual assured retaliation. It is not possible for nuclear rivals to destroy others nuclear forces; land based missile, aircraft and nuclear submarine concurrently. It guarantees survival against assured destruction and maintains deterrence stability.

The nuclear submarine development by Pakistan would bring main changes in its nuclear doctrine. Pakistan’s current nuclear doctrine is based on the “First Use” policy perhaps due to a lack of capabilities which could provide an assured second strike capability. Experts undertake critique on Pakistan’s “First Use” policy and term it as one of the destabilizing factorsespecially during a crisis. At the same time, we have to be mindful of to maintain “First Use” doctrine.It is usually believed that strategic forces comprise on land based missiles and aircraft are usually vulnerable to detection whereas a nuclear submarine guarantees an assured second strike capability as it is underwater and undetectable. The security, guarantee and certainty providedby a nuclear submarine for an assured second strike to Pakistan, most probably country would change its nuclear doctrine from “First use” to “No First Use” policy. The “No First Use” policy would not only stabilize the deterrence in the region but wouldalso ease the apprehensions of the world regarding nuclear South Asia.

A strong naval force with nuclear submarine is imperative not only forPakistan’s robust and credible deterrence but also for its geo-strategic and geo-economic position. Long lasting, secure, safe, effective and reliable nuclear deterrence lies on enduring nuclear triad.

By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)

October 29, 2014


With the 67th anniversary just passed of when India in gross violation of law and human rights, landed its forces in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, we remember once more. Every year, since that day in 1947, the day is observed as Black Day on both sides of the Line of Control and all over the world by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.India committed a flagrant violation of law and announced the accession of Kashmir which to date remains controversial and a burning dispute between Pakistan and India. In view of Kashmir’s history, geography, cultural and religious affiliations, Kashmir had a natural tendency to accede to Pakistan but owing to the nexus of the Maharaja of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh and the head of Boundary Commission, Cyril Radcliff, India was able to commit an act which in years to come would be known as the tale of perhaps one of the greatest unresolved human tragedies.When India illegally acceded the Kashmir valley, the brave and resilient people of Kashmir stood up against Indian aggression. The people of Pakistan supported their Kashmiri brethren and as a result of this support, Pakistan and India went to war in 1947. During the war, it was India who first took the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations on January 1, 1948.The UN, in the following year on January 1, 1949, helped enforce a ceasefire between the two countries. By the mutual consent of Pakistan and India, the UN Security Council and UN Commission for India and Pakistan passed several resolutions in the years following the 1947-48 war.The UNSC Resolution of 21 April, 1948- one of the principal UN resolutions on Kashmir- stated that “both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.” Subsequent UNSC Resolutions reiterated the same stand. UNCIP Resolutions of 3 August 1948 and 5 January 1949 reinforced previous UNSC resolutions.Even though it was India who took the Kashmir dispute to the UN, it has consistently disregarded UN resolutions and continues to commit blatant violations of human rights in the valley.Unlike India, Pakistan has always been clear in its stance to completely abide by UN resolutions which call for the right of Kashmiri self-determination. All governments in Pakistan have given their unconditional support to the people of Kashmir and their liberation.Indian state terrorism which has unceremoniously continued since 1989, when the unarmed people of Kashmir stood up against 700,000 armed Indian forces, has made life in the valley difficult. Indian forces in the region are protected by draconian laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturbed Areas Act which have broken all records of human rights violations in the occupied territory of Kashmir.The leadership of Pakistan Peoples’ party following their Chairman Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s footsteps, has always given its unconditional support to the cause of Kashmir over the years. Benazir Bhutto, on numerous occasions declared her support for the self-determination of the Kashmiri people according to their wishes and desires. She raised the dispute of Kashmir on many international forums and called on the international community for its resolution.Carrying on in his grandfather, mother and fathers’ footsteps, the Chairman of Pakistan Peoples’ Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari recently reiterated his commitment to the dispute of Kashmir by stating that his party would take back all of Kashmir from India because, like the other provinces, it belongs to Pakistan.The atrocities by Indian forces have not lessened in recent times. The people of Kashmir are not allowed to freely carry out daily activities without the express permission of Indian forces. This year on Eid-ul-adha, a curfew was imposed in Indian occupied Kashmir.The purpose of celebrating 27th October every year as Black Day, is to inform the world that Kashmiris will never bow down to Indian oppression and aggression. It also reinforces that the people of Kashmir, and Pakistan, will not stop at anything short of liberation.The writer is President, Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies.

Same version of the article appeared in The Nation

By Dr. Nazir Hussain

Oct 2, 2014

Untitled-1A military operation has been launched in North Waziristan after the so-called peace negotiations failed to yield the desired results. Operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ was launched in North Waziristan which had become a safe haven for local as also foreign militants and terrorists. The operation started in June 2014 and would culminate till the ejection of all terrorists form the area. However, the four-month operation has rendered around one million people homeless, turning their homes into ruins and their rehabilitation seems a gigantic task. The military forces have to leave the area as soon as normalcy is restored and hand over the area to civil administration. Therefore, this article endeavours to analyse the post-operation security challenges to North Waziristan in particular and FATA in general.

 Geopolitics of FATA/NWA

The Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) comprises seven agencies; Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mahmand, Orakzai, South Waziristan and North Waziristan. Out of the seven agencies, six have borders with Afghanistan that are unprotected and porous. The total population of FATA is 4.8 million spread over an area of 27,000 sq. km. North Waziristan is inhabited by 840,000 people over an area of 4,700 sq. km. It is surrounded on three sides by other agencies and Afghan areas of Pakitika and Khost in the west. The entire area is under-developed and lacks basic socio-economic facilities.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb

The planning for the operation was done in 2010, and by 2012 it was ready for action. Due to different reasons, the operation could not be initiated. In late 2013, the government, with the backing of political forces, engaged the militants in negotiations, postponing the military option. The long-drawn-out peace talks could not produce the desired results as the militant asked for impractical demands such as declaring part of North Waziristan a safe haven, release of militants in Pakistani custody, halting of drone attacks, etc. The watershed event was the attack on Pakistan Air Force’s Mehran Base in Karachi and other deadly attacks in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Quetta. Subsequently, the talks were abandoned and the Pakistan Army launched ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azab.’

The operation started on June 15, 2014 with airstrikes on militant hideouts and the ground operation was launched on June 26, with around 30,000 troops. The operation started with credible intelligence and surveillance information about the militants/terrorists areas of operations. The operation had four phases; quarantine North Waziristan Agency (NWA), (while informing Afghanistan to do the same in the west bordering Khost province), moving out the civilian population, action against militants/terrorists, and rehabilitation of the people.

Importantly, NWA was the last bastion of militants/terrorists hideouts and it was termed the ‘Battle for the survival of Pakistan.’ Since 9/11, these militants/terrorists have killed over 60,000 civilians and more than 6,000 security personnel. The area housed the leadership of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Punjabi Taliban, Al-Qaeda, East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The operation was aimed at restoring the writ of the government, destroying the militants/terrorists hideouts, and preparing the environment for sustainable socio-economic development.

Since June 2014, several hundred militants/terrorists have been killed, their command and control has been completely incapacitated, scores of gun-manufacturing factories have been destroyed, hideout tunnels with landmines have been cleared. However, the top leadership has fled to Afghanistan. The Pakistan Army now controls 60 per cent of the area, including the hard-core militants/terrorists headquarters such as Mir Ali, Miranshah and Shawal. The government and the armed forces have resolved to continue the operation till the last militant/terrorist is killed and the Agency/FATA is cleared of these elements. As expected, the operation is going to last till the advent of winter when the military operation would become very difficult. Nonetheless, the security forces are likely to remain in the area for many more months after the culmination of the operation.

Security challenges

There would be a host of security challenges in the aftermath of the operation that are both internal and external.

Militarily, Pakistani security forces have been at war since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and particularly since the ‘War on Terror’ after 9/11. It has launched six different operations in the restive areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan in the last many years. The bulk of the armed forces are deployed on the eastern border facing the volatile Line of Control dividing the former State of Jammu and Kashmir, more than 80,000 forces are facing the western borders, and over 50,000 forces are deployed in internal security operations, including NWA. The armed forces are also involved in civil defence operations such as flood and disaster management. The normal practice is that one-third of the armed forces would be in combat position, another one-third in training and the remaining one-third in rest. But, the Pakistan armed forces are stretched out to 60-70 per cent in combat position.

Moreover, the operation was delayed for many months that gave the opportunity to the militants/terrorists leaders to cross over to Afghanistan. Since then, cross-border activities from Afghanistan have intensified. Also, the training of Afghan National Army (ANA) by the Indian security forces and Indian politico-military involvement in Afghanistan beyond its legitimate interests constitute a big security challenge. This is not confined to NWA but to the entire FATA area bordering Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan is facing a three-pronged military challenge from India, Afghanistan and inside the country.


A major internal challenge would emerge after the security forces hand over the area to the civil administration after the operation is over. The capacity of the civil organisation is in question. Already, the large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has exposed their weaknesses; the rehabilitation of over one million people would be a gigantic task to accomplish, besides the lack of political will and bureaucratic handling may lead to frustration of people. The governance, being run through the provincial governor and central government, add to the politico-administrative woes.


A population that is already under-developed and lacks basic needs is an easy prey to radical and extremists tendencies. Only 50 per cent of the population has access to clean drinking water, one health facility per 50 sq. km., one doctor for over 7,000 people, and over 50 per cent population with food insecurity, pose the most daunting challenge to civil and military administration. Lack of education, unemployment and little business opportunities constitute another challenge. The multi-billion 2007-15 Sustainable Development Programme (SDP) for infrastructural development could not produce the desired results.

Action plan to face challenges

FATA needs political reforms, socioeconomic development and emancipation of its people. Political Reforms suggested by the FATA Committee be implemented immediately, massive infrastructure of roads, hospitals, educational institutions, small business opportunities, government jobs and educational scholarships be provided to the FATA people. A medical and engineering college and FATA University should not be a distant dream, but immediate action. It is believed that FATA has immense mineral resources estimated at $280 billion, in the shape of copper, marble, precious stones, coal and hydro-carbon resources. If explored and exploited, that can usher in a socioeconomic revolution in FATA. The only requirement is political will on the part of all stakeholders in and outside FATA.


NWA was the last sanctuary of trans-national militant/terrorist organisations. By launching Zarb-e-Azb, Pakistan has made it clear that it is serious about routing out terrorism form its soil. The backlash feared from this operation in the major cities of Pakistan has not become true, thanks to the pro-active intelligence and surveillance by the security forces. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is a battle for the survival of Pakistan; it has provided a golden opportunity to start a political and socioeconomic ‘Marshal Plan’ to empower, enlighten and improve the entire FATA region at the earliest.

By Asad Ullah Khan

Sep 3, 2014

The political situation in Pakistan has been under duress for the last month because of the ongoing opposition long marches. The two long marches, one headed by Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri’s PAT (Pakistan Aawami Tehreek) and the other led by Imran Khan and his PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) have been the source of constant headache for the government. The two parties have presented different demands, but the common point in their agenda has been the resignation of the current Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The government seems paralysed in dealing with these events. The government’s incapability to deal with the current crisis became more apparent when PTI’s chief Imran Khan first called for a ‘civil-disobedience movement’ which is not a wise move as PTI is currently exercising power in one province.

Declaration of this movement was highlighted by the international media which has the potential of creating a hurdle for the government insofar as its’ international dealings are concerned. The states deal with each other in the international environment on the basis of mutual trust. It would not be wrong to say that it is an attempt to create a vacuum by Imran Khan as the international stake holders are very much concerned about the political stability of the country. This move by Imran Khan’s party will isolate the government’s international dealings which would be a strategic setback for the government. Aftershocks of this blind move can be observed as two leaders of foreign countries cancelled their scheduled visits to Pakistan.

In European societies, the movement of civil disobedience is the most legitimate and organised way to get rid of the governments that are not performing well or not delivering to the people. In the Subcontinent, the only call for Civil disobedience was given by Gandhi way back in 1930.

The examples of the call for civil disobedience also include the one given by Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, and they worked very effectively. In a developing country like Pakistan, people are more concerned about ‘roti, kapra aur makaan ‘(food, clothing and shelter) rather than the political stunts. It has only been fourteen months since Nawaz Sharif took office for the third time. What made this government unique was the fact that it was the first government which achieved a successful democratic transition in the history of Pakistan.

Pakistan is currently in the midst of a severe political crisis. The government has been incapable to defuse this crisis. A crisis never happens suddenly, there is always a series of incidents behind it. These political marches and sit-ins are not sudden, and a lot has been cooking behind the scene for these events. Imran Khan’s demand of recounting of votes in four constituencies was never taken seriously by the government. Then, the introduction of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri on the political scene and the Model Town incident in Lahore resulting in the death of several persons, further added fire to this crisis, and soon things got out of control. It can be observed that the government was reluctant at every forum, whether to resolve this political issue or to accept any kind of liability in the form of characters like the murderous Gullu Butt in Gujranwala.

Now, when the crisis escalated, after both the opposition and the government took extreme stands, the army was called upon to resolve this issue. Some people term it a conspiracy as to who called army to intervene and moderate talks in this triangle. Whosoever is behind this, it has been proved that democracy is a mere concept if the boots are there to moderate and control the issues between political parties. All the struggles and sacrifices by different forces in the previous years will go in vain if this intervention prolongs.

By Najam Rafique

Aug 29, 2014

Afghanistan post2014 policy responses of the major stakeholdersWho says that the ‘Great Game’ is over? On the contrary, it is very much a part of the ‘Grand Chessboard’ of the ‘unilateral superpower’ that still chooses to play the game of geo-politics and geo-economics in a number of arenas around the world. For the time being, the ‘pivot’ of this game revolves around the ‘draw down’ of the U.S. and other international forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. While many of the ‘coalition of the willing’ partners have already substantially withdrawn their troops from Afghanistan, the choice of keeping a permanent military presence in that country primarily remains that of the United States.

In our recent living history, for over three decades, Afghanistan has been an arena where international and regional rivalries have, and still continue to be, played out with devastating results for that country. While it is true that Afghanistan suffers from great internal problems that require much attention, peace can only be ensured if the regional actors choose to abandon their own conflicting agendas in order to ensure that there may be peace in Afghanistan post-2014. The important question is, will it be possible to disentangle Afghanistan from the geostrategic games that have been its fate since the times of Alexander the Great and beyond.

 In recent history since the 19the century, the country has been a stage of the famous ‘Great Game’ between the European powers, over bipolar world of the 20th century. It then became a battleground of the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, with several regional powers playing out their rivalries in that country. Afghanistan remains severely affected by external rivalries acted out on Afghan soil and, although there are several dimensions to the conflict, some of the foreign and regional stakeholders have the potential to make or break the peace process currently underway in that country. A summary of the major actors’ interests and motives may help provide an understanding of the complexities of the geostrategic puzzle that is Afghanistan.

Assessment of policy and responses of different countries to the unfolding situation in 2014-post U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

The United States:

The main reason for the United States’ getting involved in Afghanistan was to “Disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al -Qaida and its violent extremist affiliates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and around the world.” Since the beginning of the so-called ‘Global War on Terror’ after September 2001, many U.S. officials believe that the power of Al-Qaeda has been diminished in Afghanistan, and that the U.S. must now turn its attention elsewhere. In November 2011, speaking to Australian Parliament, President Obama declared, “After a decade in which we fought two wars that cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, the United States is turning its attention to the vast potential of the Asia-Pacific region .”

Announcing a new defence strategy on January 5, 2012, he repeated the message, and added that the “tide of war is receding.” Obama vowed to end the long war in Afghanistan and set the withdrawal date of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Nevertheless, with the Taliban having set up shadow governments in 33 of the 34 Afghan provinces, with that announcement, the U.S. policy remains caught between ‘zero option’, i.e., total withdrawal of its forces or a significant ‘draw down’ to a force of between 10,000 to 30,000 that will continue to oversee the ‘fight, talk, and build’ strategy to push back the insurgency and support reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

For the time being, the U.S. plans on effective Afghan National Security Forces – the Afghan army and the police – to ensure security in all areas of Afghanistan, with U.S. troops playing a supportive role both on land and from the air, at the request of the Afghan government. Currently, the Obama Administration hopes to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the Afghan government that would guarantee a long-term presence of the U.S. to deal with the insurgency and support pro-government factions in a ‘Resolute Support Mission’.

The BSA is being negotiated pursuant to the broader “Strategic Partnership Agreement” (SPA) signed by President Obama and the then President Karzai in Afghanistan on May 1, 2012. The SPA signalled that the United States is committed to Afghan stability and development for many years even after the transition is complete.

It is not completely clear what the U.S. engagement would look like after 2014, but it has been established that those troops that are to remain would do so in a supportive capacity, giving day-to-day advice on planning operations, as well as calling in artillery, close air support and evacuation operations.

According to the finding of the National Intelligence Estimate in December 2013, Afghan security is likely to erode significantly by 2017 as both insurgents and pro-government faction leaders increase their geographic and political influence. Reports suggest that the ANSF is not performing as well as some assess, even with international forces still present in Afghanistan. The pessimistic views appear to take into account the ANSF deficiencies in aircraft and medical evacuation capabilities and other shortcomings, although the United States is likely to continue to transfer to the ANSF capabilities such as mortars, long-range artillery, and unarmed remotely piloted vehicles.

It is likely that, based on Obama’s new defence strategy and the public opinion at home, any U.S. presence beyond 2014 will be limited in scope. One of the most important issues facing the U.S. policy-makers is the economic vacuum that will be created after U.S. troops draw down. According to the World Bank predictions, Afghanistan will need USD 7.2 billion a year in aid for the next ten years. The United States hopes that Afghanistan’s neighbours will be able to help stabilize the country. In an attempt to implement this strategy, the Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan, held on November 2, 2011, focused on the regional aspect and how Afghanistan’s neighbours could contribute to turning the negative developments around.

In this regard, the New Silk Road Initiative has been launched by the United States as a measure to increase regional cooperation and stability through economic development. The idea is to re-establish Afghanistan as the Asian hub of trade that it once was. The strategy includes building infrastructure such as roads and railways, energy pipelines and electricity supply-lines to enable extensive regional transport and trade.


Pakistan has been at the centre of the geostrategic game in Afghanistan and, together with the United States, has a pivotal role in what will happen to Afghanistan. A contending narrative on Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan has gained momentum in recent years in the context of Washington’s publicly expressed frustration over Islamabad’s unwillingness to comply with U.S. demands and accusations that Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership that has been looking after the country’s Afghan policy since the 1970s, is playing double games by providing covert and active support for the Taliban insurgency behind the back of the United States.

Any policy that Pakistan will adopt post-2014 will be done with India as the pivot, and the U.S. tilt towards that country as a ‘strategic partner’ in the region post-2014. Pakistan’s troubled relations with India have caused it to seek ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, meaning political influence inside Afghanistan in order to keep the country from falling under the influence of India.

Till now, with the Karzai government’s tilting heavily in favour of India, Pakistan’s policy responses have been geared towards an assistance or passive support to insurgent groups such as the Haqqani network, Gulbandin Hekmatyar and the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omar inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s complex domestic situation and its own foreign policy considerations, including its adversarial relations with India, a tense relationship with the Karzai government and a difficult relationship with the U.S. after the raid in Abbottabad and the Salala incident have thrown up some very difficult policy choices for the political leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that need to be evolved before the draw down at the end of 2014.

The policy choices and responses of Pakistan post-2014 are still in the process of evolving and need to deal with at least four issues:

  1.  Dealing and developing relations that are designed to promote friendly interaction with whoever comes to power in Kabul after the April elections.
  2. Cultivating relations with the entire spectrum of the political and ethnic leadership in Afghanistan, including the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras along with the Pashtuns. Reports indicate that along with factions of the Afghan Taliban – Mullah Omer and the Haqqani network – Pakistan has been in negotiations with the elements of the Northern Alliance in order to find a workable solution for a future political setup in Afghanistan to include all the elements of Afghan society. A clear indication that Pakistan, including its military, would prefer and support an intra-Afghan government post-204 rather than a fundamentalist government.
  3. Establishing full control over its tribal areas before the U.S. drawdown.
  4. Making sure that the traditional religious groups and madrassas of the Wahabi/Salafi brand it had supported do not function as linkages for the Taliban after 2014.

Both Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership have come to the realization that the country can contain the spill-over of any post-2014 civil strife in Afghanistan only by establishing the state’s writ in the tribal areas and not giving in to the temptation of tampering with internal problems of Afghanistan. There seems to a realization among the political leadership in particular, that Pakistan can no longer use the militancy card to pursue its foreign policy agenda, and the focus of the country’s Afghan, India and U.S. policy needs to move away from the military domination of foreign policy direction towards these countries.


India’s interests in the post-Taliban period in Afghanistan have been mostly of developmental and reconstruction type. Its investment has been in priority areas like:

  1.  Infrastructure development to make Afghanistan a viable economy in terms of trade and transport, and to provide alternative routes for Afghanistan to trade and transit, while reducing its dependence on Pakistan. India’s reconstruction efforts include the building of roads, schools, bridges, the parliament house, electricity generation and the laying of transmission lines. The Border Roads Organization has already built the 218-km Delaram–Zaranj road link. This road links Afghanistan’s Garland Highway to the Iran border through the Milak Bridge. This would link Iran’s Chabahar port and provide Afghanistan with another outlet to the nearby port. India has medical missions in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif.
  2. Capacity-building through various training programmes.
  3. Various developmental activities, including mining. The Karzai government has awarded three blocks of Hajigak iron ore mines to an Indian consortium.
  4. Training of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to make them capable of managing the country’s security. India has made it clear that it would help train the Afghan troops, but not have a military footprint on the ground to protect its vital interests

The government of India has made it clear that in order to deal with the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan, it is pragmatically exploring options to have contact with all groups in Afghanistan and is not hesitant to talk to anyone, including the Taliban, to protect its interests there. According to a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India supports Afghanistan’s quest for peace and reconciliation and is not opposed to talks with the Taliban who abjure violence because the reconciliation process is not only about power sharing, but also about their reintegration with society.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) with Afghanistan signed in October 2011 provides a roadmap of the above objectives and the nature of India’s engagement in Afghanistan post-2014. The overall Indian Afghan policy post-2014 would be geared towards the economic development of Afghanistan in line with the policy of the Obama Administration of developing regional economic cooperation that envisages assisting Afghanistan as a trade, transportation and energy hub connecting Central and South Asia and enabling free and more unfettered transport and transit linkages as part of the New Silk Road Initiative that are in tune with the current strategic relations between India and the United States.


Iran has long sought a stable, friendly Afghanistan and it has worked assiduously to protect this key interest prior to and since 2001. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan has always been seen in the context of the encirclement of Iran, and the war in that country has presented problems in terms of increase in drug flows and refugees. Today, Iran plays host to the second largest refugee population. In light of these problems, Iran has several strategic objectives that are non-negotiable.

First, it desires a pro-Iranian government in Kabul. The formation of a conservative democratic government in 2014 that abides by Iran’s core preferences would satisfy the Supreme Leader Khamenei. A pro-Iranian Afghan government is seen as a probability that would not only distance itself from Washington but also refuse to be dominated by Pakistan and its Taliban proxies.

Second, with the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops, Iran seeks to minimize the physical threats to its financial investments in western Afghanistan and to its varied personnel engaged in commerce and industry throughout Afghanistan.

A third policy objective is to increase its ability to leverage particular ethnic and religious (read Shia) communities as vectors of Iranian influence in Afghanistan. The protection of the interests of traditional Iranian allies such as the Hazara Shias, the Farsiwan Heratis, and the Tajiks against elements of the Taliban and, at times, even the Afghan government, remains a core strategic objective of Tehran. Should the security situation deteriorate after 2014, Iran will likely deepen its involvement to protect these client communities. In recent years, the Iranian government sought to cultivate relations with a diverse portfolio of Afghan political factions that span Afghan’s political spectrum, even while it sought to solidify its relations with the then President Karzai and his supporter networks.

Fourth, Iran wants to maintain economic influence by emerging as a favoured transit route to Central Asia and Europe. In doing so, Iran aims to be an essential partner in regional integration, particularly economic integration. Iran has long touted guaranteed land and sea access to Central Asia and beyond as a trade route essential for landlocked Afghanistan. This vision includes the preservation of both trade with and investment within Afghanistan, particularly in Herat, as well as transit trade through its southeastern port of Chabahar and possible future gas pipelines.

The introduction of a U.S.-backed competing regional economic framework – the New Silk Road initiative – threatened to undermine Iran’s ambitions. Consonant with its own economic interests, Iran resists development initiatives in Afghanistan that proceed outside the context of Afghan-Iranian relations, such as the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) transit infrastructure and any network of roadways and railways linking Central Asia to the Indian Ocean that circumvents Iran. Iran is supporting reconstruction efforts and is currently building a railway from Khaf to Herat, which will connect Afghanistan to Iran’s railway network.

The Iranian leadership under Hassan Rouhani sees the potential to increase trade with Afghanistan and the rest of Asia only if Afghanistan can be stabilized. The so-called Afghanistan-Iran Strategic Cooperation Agreement was formalized in August 2013, after Iran’s newly-elected President, Hassan Rouhani, assumed office. Iranian officials played down the controversial agreement, calling it merely an MoU on security and law-enforcement cooperation.

The Afghan government that emerges after the presidential elections will be dealing with Iran’s current President, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate centrist, who is expected to temper down the anti-U.S. rhetoric and adopt more conciliatory policies in his foreign policy agenda. It remains to be seen if Rouhani will steer Iran away from Ahmadinejad’s hallmark aggressive posturing and towards one of greater moderation and cooperation in the region.

Russia-Central Asia:

Three of the five Central Asian republics—Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—border Afghanistan, and their people share long-standing cultural, religious and linguistic affinities with their Afghan neighbour. The risk of jihadist spill-over from Afghanistan is seen as the most pressing concern post-US withdrawal/draw down. Since 2013, the most debated policy issue among these states has been the effects of the many destabilizing forces it might unleash on the region—among them trafficking in drugs, arms and humans, but also Islamic radicalism.

Local leaders and many analysts predict that a severe deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan after the U.S. departs would encourage Central Asian jihadists who had fled their home countries to return and destabilize local regimes. For some times now, the three Central Asian states have been in discussions with the U.S. aimed at agreeing on the handover of equipment linked to the NATO drawdown in Afghanistan.

Russia has reacted with concern after learning about the ongoing talks. Russian officials fear that such equipment donations to the armed forces in the Central Asian states would not only go way beyond the existing arrangements to assist in reverse transit using the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), but could upset the strategic balance in Central Asia post-2014. In diplomatic circles in Moscow, this development is portrayed as entirely unacceptable to Russia. A potential diplomatic crisis between Washington and Moscow is brewing precisely in this area due to a number of inter-related factors, but with President Vladimir Putin under pressure domestically, he may choose to use this at some stage to boost his image at home by confronting the United States more directly.

 However, Russia’s concerns run much deeper. It fears any move that may undermine its traditionally strong security ties with the Central Asian states, while also remaining anxious about future U.S. military basing policy in the region. In this regard, Moscow has criticized Washington’s plans to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia after the completion of the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. The appearance or strengthening of foreign military infrastructure close to the country’s borders with Central Asia remains one of the most pressing policy concerns for Russia post-2014.

Russia’s Defence Ministry has declared strengthening stability in Central Asia as an objective of state security policy by making the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) a genuinely combat-ready organization, capable of repelling existing and future threats. According to reports in January2014, Moscow has begun construction of a high-tech command and control centre to oversee Russia’s military. Construction of the centre is expected to be completed by the end of 2014 and is intended to serve as a round-the-clock nerve-centre to coordinate Russia’s military, including its nuclear missiles and Special Forces units.


While Chinese officials remain concerned about a possible collaboration of Afghan radicals with Islamic Uighur separatists in its north-western region of Xinjiang, their primary concerns regarding the endgame in Afghanistan revolve around discussions of regional stability because of its geographic position, economy, centrality in Central Asian politics and relations with Pakistan.  Conferences discussing Afghanistan have multiplied in China in the last year or so, and discussions with Chinese officials give a sense of increased Chinese concern as the final withdrawal of U.S. forces draws nearer. However, there is no clear sense of how Chinese leaders might manifest their concern in actions other than undertaking economic projects in Afghanistan.

Thus far, Chinese involvement in Afghanistan has been primarily economic.  They won a large and important copper investment contract, but for various reasons, have done little development of the resource.  A newer exploration contract for petroleum may be more active.  But, China is neither a major donor nor has it chosen to use its relationship with Pakistan to articulate any particular views on Afghanistan.

To summarize Chinese policy options, one can conclude in discussions with Chinese academics and officials that the country’s policy remains one of cautious passivity, which could evolve once the security and economic situation stabilizes in Afghanistan.  Chinese options on Afghanistan, for now, do not suggest a great deal of activism other than increasing Chinese investments in development projects , particularly in the context of its president’s vision for the “Silk Road Economic Belt” project linking countries from China to Europe through expanded flows of trade and investment, and enhanced infrastructural links.


The writer is Director (Americas) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI).

By Adeela Bahar Khan

Jul 24, 2014

Several countries pouring tremendous efforts to overcome their energy shortage, which they are currently facing or which they expect to face in the near future. For the past seven years now, Pakistan has been suffering from a dire energy crisis because the country did not increase its energy capacity. This is not only affecting different sectors of the economy, but also diverse segments of society.
By 2050, Pakistan’s electricity requirements will grow triple. If sufficient resources are not allocated and utilized effectively and efficiently, the energy crisis in the country will further aggravate. Beyond installing energy production units indigenously, the import of energy from energy rich countries is though an unreliable, but a quick solution to be relied on. Therefore, it is required to analyze the accessible choices to import energy from the neighbouring countries in order to secure the current and future energy needs of the country.
In the South Asian region, Pakistan and India are the two major energy consumers and they are getting increasingly dependent on oil and natural gas which they import from aboard to fulfil their energy needs.
The liquefied natural gas is an expensive source as compared to the mechanism of gas pipelines, which costs in the range of $16 to $18 per million British thermal units (mmbtu). The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is a major project being pursued by Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India, which would be the beginning of a new era of cooperation and interconnectedness at the regional levels.
The 1,800-km-long pipeline is to begin from Turkmenistan’s Dawlatabad area’s Galkynysh field, better known by its previous name, South Yoiotan Osman, holds estimated gas reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet. From the field, the pipeline will run to Farah, Herat, Kandahar and Helmand provinces of Afghanistan, before entering Pakistan. It will reach Multan via Quetta in Pakistan, before ending in Fazilka (Punjab) India. It will have the capacity to transfer 90 million standard cubic metres gas a day (mmscmd) for a 30-year period and would be operational in 2018.
However, unfortunately, the prevailing geopolitical scenario in the region has put a question mark on the commencement and completion of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline projected, another important gas pipeline project connecting the gas field in Iran, Pakistan and India. Apart from geopolitical scenario, there is a lack of political will in Pakistan to go ahead with that program. Nonetheless, as an alternate to IPI, the TAPI gas pipe-line project needs to be materialized at a faster pace in order to meet the energy requirements and to cope with the energy crisis of Pakistan.
Pakistan, through the TAPI project, would receive 1.365 billion cubic feet of gas per day (bcfd), India would get 1.365 bcfd and Afghanistan will receive 0.5 bcfd through Turkmenistan. Afghanistan will annually receive $450 million under this agreement. It is a vital project for the country as it would generate employment for thousands of Afghan youth. For the purpose of safeguarding the pipeline, around 6,000 Afghan Security Forces will be deployed.

The U.S. and its allies want Pakistan to step down from the IPI and pursue TAPI because the main financial control over Turkmenistan gas reserves lies with giant Western companies. The U.S. has been opposed to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline because of Iran’s nuclear programme, which is at the heart of international controversy.

Against this backdrop, TAPI has got on intense support from the U.S. for the recent operational agreement between the four countries. It is an ideal scheme between these countries to overcome their energy shortages. The U.S. interest was very deep in reaching the agreement because of the award of the multi-billion-dollar project to two U.S. firms – Chevron and ExxonMobil –which are currently in the race to win the project and become consortium leaders as well as to finance the pipeline’s laying.

China had also expressed interest in becoming part of the TAPI pipeline project. The extension of the pipeline to China through Gwadar will give a boost to economic activities in Balochistan. The pipeline will connect a wider region if Bangladesh formally joins the pipeline; which has also expressed its interest in joining the project.

While the TAPI project seems extremely attractive in theory, there are some serious challenges that have to be overcome by the countries involved. Even if there is international support and financing for the project, security of the project is difficult to guarantee. TAPI has economic and geopolitical significance, subject to improved security situation in Afghanistan and law and order situation in Balochistan. As a comparison between the IPI and TAPI routes, the IPI pipeline route go as by more disturbed areas of Balochistan, whereas this concern is less visible with TAPI, considering that its route will go by the more stable areas of the province.

The prospects for the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project are bleak due to several international compulsions, particularly the strong U.S. objections. Therefore, the stakeholders of TAPI should make a combined endeavour for the construction of this pipeline. This pipeline project will bring regional stability that will ultimately lead to peace and prosperity. TAPI project has the potential to create a joint economic ring in the region and, in the long-term, the economic profits will create a guaranteed regional security.

The TAPI provides plausible economic opportunities to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. It may transform India-Pakistan relations by enhancing interdependence in the energy sector and the economic field. Due to more economic opportunities, new markets will be opened for landlocked Turkmenistan as it can extend its exports to the east where there is a remarkable demand for energy.

By Air Commodore(R) Khalid Iqbal

Jul 14, 2014

NSGNearly six years on, the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement remains a controversial arrangement. As America, the leading proponent of nuclear non-proliferation (NPT), entered into Agreement 123 with a non NPT state, it threw-up a whole range of irreconcilables. Of these, one is India’s relationship with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Additional Protocol between India and the IAEA, providing cover to US- India Agreement 123, is the most lax instrument when compared with such arrangements between the IAEA and other countries. Nonproliferation constituency in the international community has never been comfortable with the arrangement, which gives India wide ranging access to sensitive technology and allows it to buy nuclear fuel from the international market without being duly accountable in the context of nonproliferation. The Nuclear Threat Initiative’s (NTI) Nuclear Security Index 2014 has clubbed India along with countries that have extremely poor track record in nuclear security.

Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) is a 48-nation body established 40 years ago to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military purposes. Interestingly, NSG was created in reaction to India’s first nuclear test in 1974. This test became possible only due to clandestine diversion of materials and equipment acquired from Canada and the United States purely for peaceful purposes. For this illicit act, India was barred, for many years, from nuclear trade by the United States and other major states.

NSG is contemplating its expansion. Both India and Pakistan are seeking group’s membership. In the nuclear realm, both Pakistan and India share a number of common features, like: both are nuclear weapon sates; are non-members of NPT and CTBT; since 1998, both are abiding by their unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing; are proponents of global disarmament; their force goals are governed by minimum credible deterrence; both have a potent nuclear regulator and stringent export control regimes etc. Moreover, both counties have evolved a number of bilateral CBMs related to nuclear and missile activities, like advance warning of nuclear test and missile launch, and annual exchange of list of nuclear installations etc. Membership would greatly enhance the acceptance of these two counties as nuclear weapons states and give them a say in how countries should conduct trade in nuclear-related exports. Moreover, both will stand answerable to NSG for their conduct on nuclear trade.

Therefore, any criterion based expansion of the group would mean simultaneous entry of both the countries. Any country specific effort to have India in and Pakistan out will render the group dysfunctional and ineffective. That’s why Pakistan is pursuing for a non-discriminatory criterion based approach for the expansion of NSG. Giving India membership and denying it to Pakistan would be discriminatory and would not serve global non-proliferation and other strategic objectives; moreover, it could throw-up a number of operational and functional lacunae which shall be difficult to reconcile. India already has a partnership arrangement with the NSG, and grant of membership to India alone would elevate its status disproportionately. Moreover, since the group operates on consensus, membership would give India a perpetual veto over any future decisions involving Pakistan.

In 2005, United States had signed Agreement 123 with India for civil cooperation in nuclear technology; and has ever-since been ignoring similar requests from Pakistan. America was so eager to use the agreement as the centerpiece of a new India-America relationship that it deliberately cut a weak deal; for example, India did not have to limit its nuclear weapons, stop producing bomb-making material or forsake nuclear testing. Now America and other Western powers are focusing on winning Indian defence and nuclear energy related contracts; and for this reason, once again expediency is replacing the rationale.

So far, NSG is divided over establishing closer ties with India. Its annual meeting has recently concluded; India’s membership issue was discussed with no clear answer. Some countries, including the US, UK, France were supportive of India’s membership, while equally important countries including China were opposed to the Indian membership issue. Earlier NSG debates on this issue have also highlighted divisive views amongst the members.

While ignoring the voices of dissent over its Agreement 123 with India, Washington had gone even a step further, and accrued a country specific NSG waiver. On the basis of this waiver, India has signed civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with over a dozen countries including Australia, France, Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan, South Korea etc. Most of these agreements focus on procurement of Uranium by India. This is contrary to the spirit of, little known, Barrack Obama amendment to India-US Agreement 123 that restricts that supply of nuclear fuel to India should be proportionate to the legitimate requirement of Indian nuclear power plants.

Recent reports suggest that India is set to produce more HEU than needed for its naval propulsion purposes and this could be diverted to an unmonitored thermonuclear weapons programme. Last month’s IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the US-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), have almost simultaneously reported India’s plans for a new uranium enrichment facility, ostensibly aimed at expansion of its naval capacity, reports also indicated Indian intent to pursue a thermonuclear route to boost its nuclear weapons capability.

It is commonly agreed by most experts that deviation from a criteria-based approach is more likely to undermine the credibility of the NSG. Furthermore, beside the principle of equity, the question of expansion will have to be decided from the perspective of the NSG remaining fundamentally committed to the goals of the NPT. The existing expansion criteria demands adherence to the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty, capability to supply the goods listed in the NSG guidelines and the ability to ensure implementation of nuclear export control regimes in compliance with the NSG rules. As of now, India does not meet most of these conditions. From the NSG’s perspective, advantages of Indian membership would be the integration of an important potential exporter into its regime and that many other countries may also profit from India’s nuclear market; however, this is true for Pakistan as well.

Admission to the group should be based on some consistent criteria. If India wants to be part of the NSG, it should sign the CTBT, stop producing fissile material, and begin talks with its rivals on nuclear weapons containment. One way to do that would be by opening negotiations with Pakistan and China to end the dangerous regional nuclear arms race. Pakistan has already proposed a “Strategic Restraint Regime” covering nuclear as well as conventional domains. The strategic equilibrium, established by the 1998 nuclear tests carried out by both countries, stands undermined by a number of global and regional developments. These include: the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal; country specific exemption for India by the NSG, and consequent fuel supply agreements; India’s inclination towards dangerous war fighting doctrines under various brands; efforts to enlarge and augment its nuclear triad; developing ballistic missile defence (BMD) shield; and enhancing its submarine-launched and intermediate range missile capabilities.

Grant of NSG membership to India while by-passing Pakistan would have predictable outcome: emboldening India to significantly expand its nuclear arsenal and capabilities and also turn down any meaningful disarmament/arms control offers from Pakistan. This could lead to an open-ended nuclear arms race in South Asia.

From a non-proliferation perspective, India’s inclusion in the NSG seriously threatens the credibility of the NSG, particularly given the irony of adding a member whose action was the very impetus for the body’s creation. Acceptance of India alone would permanently preclude later admission of Pakistan, as Delhi is most likely to vote against Islamabad’s entry.

By Ifrah Waqar & Saqib Mehmood

Jun 2, 2014

zarbeazbOn June 15, Pakistan Army launched a comprehensive military operation against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan. This operation is aimed at rooting out Pakistani Taliban and their aiding trans-national violent organizations, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Al-Qaeda. According to official Pakistani sources, almost 25,000 to 30,000[1] troops are taking part in ground offensive, along with air-cover and a wide-ranging intelligence apparatus to provide the troops and commanders real-time situational awareness of the battlefield. In addition, the operation has also entailed the resumption of U.S. drone operations inside Pakistan after six months gap.

In this commentary, we intend to provide our readers with an analysis beyond the news and media commentaries based on a comprehensive understanding of the factors such as geography, history, players involved, their motivations, rationales objectives and strategies  that are likely to shape the outcome.


Traditional warfare is inherently geographic in nature. The geographic factors shaping military operations vary by the scale of military operation, nature of warfare, enemy tactics and their impact on one’s own military war plans.

North Waziristan, a mountainous region of north-west Pakistan, comprises an area of about 4,707 square kilometres[2]. Its terrain is rocky, rough, inhospitable, dry, mountainous and mostly infertile. It borders Afghanistan in the west and Khurram Agency in the north. In its south lies another troubled area, South Waziristan, and to its east, is the hardest-hit province of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) in terms of terrorist attacks.

The mountain ranges in North Waziristan are some of the most difficult mountainous terrains in the world. Some of its ranges are above 3,000 meters[3], including the Shawal Mountain located in its south-west. The highest mountain range in the agency is about 3,350 meters. Given this, the terrain is not conducive in southern and western parts of the agency to carry out conventional military offensive, providing the local insurgents an inbuilt defence. Moreover, the militants, having a batter familiarity with the terrain, get an advantage over Pakistan Army. North Waziristan comprises eight tehsils, namely; Dattakhel, Dossali, Garyam, Ghulam Khel, Mirali, Miranshah, Ramzak and Spin Wam. Miranshah is the headquarters of North Waziristan agency.

The terrain is highly suitable for ambush warfare and for carrying out sporadic assaults through using guerrilla tactics. Due to the difficult terrain influence, the military cannot fight an open face-to-face battle with the militants.

Population, demography and militancy through the lens of history    

The population of North Waziristan is estimated to be around 840,000. The main tribes of the region are the Utmanzi Wazirs and the Dawars. Along with them, the smaller tribes of Gurbaz, Saidgis, Malakshis, Mehsuds, Bangashs and Kharsins are also to be found there. These tribes, except for the Saidgis, are ethnically Pashtun and have been based in the area for centuries. The Saidgis are said to be the descendants of a Syed who accompanied the founder of the Wazirs in the region.

The societal setup in North Waziristan is tribal. It is egalitarian in nature and presents an anarchic outlook with no hierarchy. The local tribes often fight against each other when they are not confronted with an external enemy. Due to anarchism and the absence of legitimate political structure, the tribes are heavily armed and militancy is deeply embedded in their culture.

During the Mughal era, Waziristan was a part of the Mughal Empire. Though they were never conquered by either Mughals or any other invader, they had accepted the influence of Mughal and Durrani Kings and voluntarily provided them military support when required. However, the inhabitants of this region have always maintained their semi-independent status throughout the ages.

When British took over the subcontinent, Waziristan was under the Kabul regime. In 1894, the British, through an agreement with the locals, established a new system of land records and revenue administration. The relative peace shattered when, in 1935-36, a Hindu-Muslim clash occurred over the love marriage of a Hindu girl with a Muslim named Amir Noor Ali. The mother of the girl approached the court and accused him of abducting the girl. As a result, Noor Ali was arrested and imprisoned for two years and the girl was handed back to her family.

This event raised fury among the tribals who protested against the decision. As a result, a Jirga was held, and the tribals declared Jihad against the British government.  In order to fight against the British, a tribal Lashkar was formed under the Faqir of Ipi (Mirza Ali Khan)[4]. The war continued till partition of the Subcontinent in 1947. The British left but the Faqir’s struggle continued until his death in 1960. He never recognised Pakistan and continued to fight with the new nation’s army. However, his following declined progressively and ultimately died along with him in 1960.

In 1970s and 80s, local tribes fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with the support of Pakistan and the U.S. Their already rigid religious views were further hardened by intoxicating them with a carefully calibrated and fabricated conservative religious narrative. Though it went well as far as the objectives of the U.S. and its allies were concerned, it left a deep imprint of fundamentalism and radicalism on the socio-religious psyche of the local population, which later resulted in the rise of anti-state elements challenging the writ of the government and the moderate mainstream. Hard-core religious views were mixed with rhetoric of state injustices; and were banked upon to gain sympathy and support of local populace by some elements for their own political agendas.

After the Afghan war, the government did nothing to deconstruct what it had engineered over the years to defeat and push back the Soviet Occupation. The cultured bacteria went on replicating. After 9/11, subsequent to a quick defeat at the hands of the American and NATO forces, Taliban and Al-Qaeda affiliates sneaked into Pakistan’s northern areas and secured sanctuaries there, thanks to Pashtun culture of hospitality. Consequently, militancy, both in the form of Pakistani Taliban and foreign militant groups, spread quickly across the northern areas, especially North Waziristan. The Pakistan Army moved to Khyber and Kurram Agencies in November 2001, to North Waziristan in December 2001 and to South Waziristan in April 2002. The aim was to stop the influx of Al-Qaeda.

Military Operation in North Waziristan

The realization of the need for a military operation has existed in Pakistani Army since 2005. The situation in North Waziristan had worsened over the years due to the accumulation of local and foreign militant groups and an alarming increase in the support of foreign terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and IMU. In particular, a large number of Uzbek militants had relocated themselves into North Waziristan after the military operation in South Waziristan.

According to rough estimates, around 4,000 to 5,000 Uzbek militants had holed themselves in North Waziristan. They had developed close relations and operational collaboration with Mehsud militants and the TTP. From there, in collaboration with several local terrorist groups, they have been launching attacks in different regions of Pakistan; especially big cities like Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore have been their prime targets. Investigations have showed that several big attacks in large cities of Pakistan have been carried out at the behest of Uzbek militant commanders from North Waziristan.

The Army had planned a military operation in North Waziristan back in 2010, which was postponed due to some unknown reasons. Again, in 2012, the Army decided to clean up the Agency, but could not; because of the fear of a backlash, instability, the fragile economy; and, above all an illusionary hope that the matter would be resolved through negotiations.

Major militant attacks

In 2009, a group of 12 TTP militants attacked the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore. They attacked when some 750 unarmed police recruits were doing their morning parade in the ground. They were dressed in police uniforms and armed with automatic weapons, grenades and rockets. The terrorists were able to hold the entire place hostage for some six-seven hours. Eight police personnel were killed and another 95 injured as a result of this attack.

The IMU has been involved in various terrorist activities within Pakistan over the years. In 2011, four Uzbek terrorists attacked the PNS Mehran base in Karachi. They were successful in destroying two P3C-Orion surveillance aircraft used by Pakistan navy. This attack resulted in the death of 10 security personnel. Even though all the four attackers were either killed or they blew themselves up, they were later identified as Uzbeks[5].

In 2012, Uzbek militants played a major role in a jail-break incident at Bannu in which 100 militants attacked and some 400 inmates were freed.  Adnan Rasheed – a hard-core militant – was also among the freed.

The same year, Bacha Khan Airport in Peshawar was attacked by 10 militants in which rockets were fired. Four persons as also five militants were killed. The attackers were identified to be Uzbeks.

Then, in 2013, Uzbek militants played a crucial role in attacking the Dera Ismail Khan jail. The militants were able to free 170 terrorists of the TTP and Jundullah as a result of the jail break.

On June 8, 2014, a major terrorist incident occurred at the Jinnah Terminal, Karachi. This attack was significant because it shook the country to the core and after which the decision to launch operation Zarb-e-Azb was finalized. Ten Taliban militants attacked the terminal. Twenty-six people died in this attack including members of the Airport Security Force (ASF), the Rangers and civilians. Although TTP claimed responsibility of the attack, they also confirmed that the perpetrators of the attack included Uzbeks who are affiliated with the TTP and conduct activities against the state of Pakistan[6].

Against this backdrop, the decision to stop negotiations and launch a military operation was taken by the state, and thus operation Zarb-e-Azb began on June 15, 2014.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb (Sword of the Prophet, peace be upon him)

Sensing the gravity of the situation, Pakistan Army with the help of Pakistan Air Force launched an operation against the militants in North Waziristan. The operation started with sporadic air assaults on terrorist camps and hideouts. On June 15, Pakistan Air Force killed 105 terrorists, most of them were Uzbek militants[7] in surgical air strikes in Dattakhel.  The same day, in another air sortie, 13 militant were killed in Mir Ali.

The very next day, Pakistan Army and Air force killed 40 militants in a combined operation in Shawal Tehsil; majority of them being Uzbeks. So far, around 386 terrorists have been killed by Pakistan Army and 20 soldiers have embraced martyrdom[8].

Technically, the operation represents a comprehensive strategy keeping in view the nature of the threat, the terrain, the environment and the objectives. The area has been totally quarantined and cordon off from three sides, whereas a formal request through military and political channels has been made to the Afghan government to seal their side of border. After the evacuation of civilians from the area, Pakistan Army planned to destroy the terrorist camps, communication and supply links in air raids, and then move in tanks and infantry to occupy the area. Main focus of the operation has been given to avoid civilian causalities and collateral damage. According to the official sources, so far, there have been zero civilian during ground and air operations.

Mainly the operation revolves around three operational manoeuvres. Air power and artillery have been proven very efficient and effective in providing sufficient fire power in not only destroying the targets in far and unreachable lands, but also provide suppressive fire cover to infantry units to move ahead. The infantry divisions are effectively rooting out militants from villages, towns and cities.

Three most troubled areas namely Mir Ali, Miranshah and Shawal represent three different challenges, as far the as the military strategy and tactics are concerned. Mir Ali and its surrounding areas are relatively plane where tanks can manoeuvre and move in easily after suppressive and destructive air sorties, followed by boots on ground. This area because of the presence of large number of foreign militants and dense population was a challenge for military strategy and tactics, as far as avoiding civilian causalities and effective elimination of militants is concerned. However, due to proper planning, preparation and careful application of military tactics by Pakistan Army, the operation is going well.

Miranshah and its vicinity is not conducive to ground attacks because of the mountains. In addition, because of the heavy presence of foreign and local militants, a tough and heavy fighting is expected there. Mountains provide militants safe hideouts, and pouches from where they can easily ambush troops on ground. So, armours and tanks along with air raids and air surveillance would reduce the casualty rate and help achieve the desired results in a relatively short period of time.

The terrain of Shawal in North Waziristan Agency is a mountainous one. In this area, because of its location, a major ground offensive using tanks and boots on ground will not be effective. So, coordinated airstrikes are being conducted to help achieve the desired results.

According to the recent press briefing by ISPR, the area has been cordoned off from three sides.  The army has surrounded the entire agency and sealed the 180-km border with Afghanistan, as well as the boundary with South Waziristan making it impossible for the terrorists to escape. However, much depends on the Afghan government and its willingness to seal their side of the border.  According to a press release by ISPR, after evacuation of all civil population, ground operation commenced in and around Miranshah early morning on 30th June[9].

There is no doubt that this operation is being held at a defining moment in the history of Pakistan. The state of Pakistan has decided it would not be held hostage and will fight those who aim to threaten the peace and stability of Pakistan. The people of Pakistan are firmly in support of their armed forces in this fight against the militants. It is a war of survival, as Major General Asim Bajwa rightly said in a recent press briefing, “it is the beginning of the end of terrorism in the country.”


[1] Pakistan army launches operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ in North Waziristan, The News, June 15, 2014.

[2] FATA Development Authority

[3] Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Physical Features and Climate

[4]Asad Munir, The Faqir of Ipi of North Waziristan, Express Tribune, November 15, 2010.

[5] Syed Arfeen, Who are the Uzbeks launching terror strikes in Pakistan, The News, June 15, 2014.

[6] AFP, Uzbek al Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility for Karachi airport siege, Express Tribune, June 11, 2014.

[7] ISPR, Update – North Wazistan Agency Operation, June 15, 2014,

[8] Zarb-e-Azb operation: Air strikes kill Uzbek militants in Miranshah, Dunya News, 5 July, 2014.

[9] Inter Services Public Relations, Update- Zarb-e-Azb, June 30th, 2014.

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