Joint covert actions against the Punjabi Taliban?
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20090319&fname=raman&sid=1Before The Ice Melts The time has come for considering joint operations in the form of some of the Predators operating from bases in Indian territory and joint covert actions against the Punjabi Taliban. Such joint operations will be in the mutual interests of the two countries.B. Raman
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The need for a regional counter-terrorism strategy to be spear-headed by India and the US for eradicating all terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistani territory has been one of the themes of my writings and lectures in the last two years. Extracts from two of the articles written by me on this subject on October 11, 2008, and January 1, 2009, are annexed.
It has been my belief that unless and until the US takes the initiative for such a strategy focused on eradicating all terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistani territory India will continue to bleed at the hands of jihadi terrorists spawned in Pakistan and the US will meet the same fate in Afghanistan as the erstwhile USSR did in the 1980s.
President Barack Obama’s strategy for the Af-Pak region is still unfolding in bits and pieces. A surge of 16,000 troops to start with and intensified Predator strikes on terrorist hide-outs and training camps in Pakistani territory are two components of this strategy, which are already under implementation. His administration has also been expanding the geographic and target spread of the Predator strikes. From North and South Waziristan and the Bajaur Agency in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the geographic area of the strikes has been extended to the Kurram Agency in the FATA. The Bannu area in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which was already targeted once by the Bush Administration, has been receiving more attention from the advisers of Obama.
The targets are also expanding. The initial targeting under the Bush Administration was mainly against the hide-outs and training camps of Al Qaeda and its associates such as the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union, which is also an Uzbeck group with many Europeans in it. Under Obama, the targets have been expanded to cover the hide-outs and training camps of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in all these areas and of Gulbuddin Heckmatyar’s Hizbe-Islami in the Kurram Agency.
A report carried by the New York Times and reproduced by the Times of India of March 19, 2009, indicates that the Obama Administration is also examining the advisability of hitting at the hide-outs and training camps of the Afghan Taliban in Quetta and some other areas of Balochistan adjoining the border with Afghanistan. Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Neo Taliban, and his advisers are operating from sanctuaries in these areas.
In order to weaken the movement for Baloch independence , the late Gen.Zia-ul-Haq had got settled a large number of Afghan Pashtun refugees in these areas and given them Pakistani citizenship. It is in the midst of these pockets of citizens or residents of Afghan origin that the command and control of the Neo Taliban is located. Unless and until this command and control is targeted and eliminated, the US and other NATO troops will not be able to win the war against terrorism in the Af-Pak region.
Predator strikes on the sanctuaries of the Neo Taliban in the areas of Balochistan adjoining the Afghan border will be more difficult and tricky than the strikes now being carried out in the FATA. The targeted Balochistan areas may not be as sparsely populated as the targeted FATA areas. Unless there is precise intelligence, the dangers of civilian killings will be more. Human intelligence collection in the FATA area has already improved, indicating new capabilities now available to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in this region. US intelligence officials must be confident of similar precise intelligence in respect of Balochistan too.
Otherwise, recommendations would not have been made to Obama to expand the attacks to cover sanctuaries in Balochistan.
It is important that Obama gives his clearance to this recommendation as quickly as possible before the Neo Taliban launches its summer offensive in Afghanistan from its sanctuaries in the Balochistan area.
The policy already being followed by Obama and the change now recommended cover only attacks on the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and its associates, the Neo Taliban, the TTP and the Hizb-e-Islami. They do not cover the group of five organizations--the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ)--which are commonly referred to in Pakistan as the Punjabi Taliban.
The JEM has been helping the TTP in the Swat Valley of the NWFP. The LET has been helping the Neo Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami in the Kabul area. It was involved in the explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul in the first week of July last year. The HUM, the HUJI and the LEJ have been active in the tribal belt since the 1990s.
These organizations, except the LEJ, have been behind most acts of jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory. Unless the new US counter-terrorism strategy covers the terrorist infrastructure of the Punjabi Taliban too, the results will not be satisfactory.
It is here that the question of Indo-US operational co-operation comes in. The counter-terrorism co-operation between the intelligence agencies of India and the US has till now been confined to intelligence-sharing, mutual legal assistance in investigation of terrorist incidents and training for capacity building. Joint operations are practically nil.
The time has come for considering joint operations in the form of some of the Predators operating from bases in Indian territory and joint covert actions against the Punjabi Taliban. Such joint operations will be in the mutual interests of the two countries. B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.