Posts by PramodSedhain:

    Nepal’s War Victims Await Justice

    June 19th, 2017

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

    Victims of the decade-long armed insurgency (February 1996 to November 2006) in Nepal are waiting for justice. The delay in formation and the performance of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) & Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) to investigate and ensure accountability has frustrated the hopes of the victims.

    In the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) signed by the government and the Communist Party of Nepal Maoist in November 2006, both parties had committed to immediately set up a TRC & CIEDP to investigate the creating mechanisms aimed at ensuring accountability for the perpetrators and justice and reparations for the victims.

    8 years after the signing of CPA, the Nepal government decided to form the TRC & CIEDP on 10 February 2015 which, however, completed its initial two-year tenure on February 9, 2017 without any significant achievement. It extended its mandate pledging to accomplish its tasks by another one year until February 9, 2018. Following its establishment, more than 58,052 complaints of human rights violations have been registered at the TRC.

    CIEDP has registered some 2,874 cases of disappearance during the insurgency period. Nepal’s TRC has been mandated to resolve all gross human rights violations during the Maoist-led insurgency era. However, the question is whether it will be able to utilize the remaining time. In the past, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a constitutional body of Nepal, had recommended hundreds of cases, which went unheard of.

    Nepal, a tiny South Asian Himalayan nation situated between India to the south and China to the North, has hundreds of notorious human right violation cases during insurgency period. According to Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, some 17,886 people lost their lives, 8191 disabled, 69571 displaced, 17448 private properties lost or damaged during the decade-long insurgency. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has listed over 9,000 cases of “serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” during the decade-long Maoist-led insurgency.

    OHCHR’s “Nepal Conflict Report – 2012” criticized the Nepalese authorities for failing to bring the perpetrators to justice. Notorious human right violations include Maoist’s 2005 June bus bombing in Madi Chitwan – 170 kilometers from capital Kathmandu, killing 35 civilians and execution of twenty-one Maoist cadres after being captured in Doramba Ramechhap – 87 kilometers from the capital on August 2003 by the Nepal Army.

    The National Human Right Commission data suggests more than 60 percent of cases that happened during the civil war had nothing to do with the conflict. Former lawmaker Bal Krishna Dhungel’s case is one of the notorious examples of Nepal’s serious impunity. Nepal’s Supreme Court has already issued an arrest warrant against Dhungel on the convicted murder of Ujjan Kumar Shrestha of Okhaldhunga in 1998. Ironically, Dhungel has been roaming freely. Despite the court’s arrest order, he has threatened physical attack against the Judges issuing the verdict against him. Nepal’s previous Maoist-led government in November 2011 had recommended his presidential clemency for him which eventually was rejected by the court.

    Nepal government initially granted 100,000 rupees as interim compensation to missing persons’ families. Majority of them received their payment, but attempts to assign legal accountability for the crimes have been proven illusive. Some families refused the compensation demanding justice first. Nanda Prasad Adhikari and his wife Ganga Maya Adhikari from Phujel in Gorkha district have been one among them. Adhikari’s family refused to receive the compensation without proper investigation of the murder of their 19-year old son Krishna Adhikari, who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by Maoist cadres in Ratnanagar of Chitwan on June 6, 2004.

    After 333 days in hunger strike Nanda Prasad Adhikari breathed his last on 22 September 2014 at the age of 52. Adhikari’s body is still lying at the hospital waiting for funeral. His wife Ganga Maya Adhikari is still on hunger strike struggling to get justice. She is lying unconscious at a hospital bed. The couple’s voice seeking justice in non-violence means have been unheard of. Therefore, they started their hunger strike on October 23, 2013 demanding action against those involved in the murder of their son.

    In a separate case, Nepal’s district court recently sentenced three former army officials to 20 years in jail for killing a 15-year-old school-girl Maina Sunwar. She was arrested from her home in Kavre – 45km south of the capital. She was tortured, electrocuted and killed on February 2004. Maina’s body was exhumed in March 2007. District Court issued arrest orders of the four accused in 2008 but none has been arrested so far. Her mother Devi Sunwar is still struggling for justice with the hope that her daughter’s murderers are punished. These are some of the few examples of barriers to get justice during the war era crime.

    Despite pressure coming from several right groups as well as court verdicts, Nepal government is yet to enforce court verdicts over such cases. Right groups are worried about general amnesty on sensitive war era atrocities. Ten years have passed. However, nothing significant has been accomplished so far. Since post-conflict phase, hundreds of victims are yet to get justice. Civilians affected by the widespread violence, death and disappearances of war-time family, are still deprived of justice.

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    Raising serious threats from IS drone strikes

    February 10th, 2017

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain. 

     

    Islamic State (IS) has been aggressively making strategies to manipulating accessible technologies for terrorist purpose. In fact, it has been rapidly changing its terrorist phenomenon into modern form and gradually gaining its aspiration goals into operational reality which was rarely predicted or anticipated even by experts. After self-proclaimed “Caliphate” in the captured areas in Iraq and Syria, IS has seized every opportunities, innovations and technologies for terrorist cause.

    IS’s use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) is not phenomenon. However, the release of their first-ever clear video showed their ability to carry and drop bombs on intended targets precisely. IS’s self proclaimed “Wilayat Ninawa” released a 38-minute video on January 24, 2016 which clearly demonstrated its capability to carry out bombs from drones. But the operational success of those strikes remains a mystery. Success of explosives equipped drones has indicated growing terrorist threat from multiple dimensions in technological fields.

    The video released by IS showed they were able to accurately drop small bombs and drones on targeted Iraqi forces in Mosul. The video confirmed that IS are capable of assembling the bombs in guided drones to launch attack on pinpoint targets. IS has been able to modify drones to drop small bombs and grenades. Capabilities to fitting the airborne improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in drones have raised series alarm since the start of battles around Mosul. Since then IS has claimed over a dozen attacks from drones in Iraq & Syria.

    ISF has successfully shot down most of the IS drones, if not all. The IS new video is evident that there is definitely a new kind of threat not only from their lone wolf attacks, suicide bombings, snipers, mine warfare, ambushing, body-trap or other type of attacks on the ground but also from aerial bombardment. IS has been trying to ‘weaponize’ commercial drones since 2014 despite the fact that they were not successful before.  

    The group never displayed its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to carry out attacks against enemies. Total success of such tactics will lead to new changing terrorist threat phenomenon in global security. IS has been widely using commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in aerial reconnaissance to visualize their attacks. But this has been the first clear evidence that they are utilizing the latest technological tools for terrorist purpose.

    IS’s wider strategy and apocalyptic idea became the most superior violent global jihadi domination as well as hitting back to utilize the modern tools against their western inventors. The world has ever seen such radical jihadist movement success in modern history. IS ambition to establish worldwide Islamic caliphate and to erect current geographical borders pose a global security threat.

    Ultra-brutal terrorist methods, high-level propaganda skills, Hollywood-style production, expertise on deep and dark web, using of end-to-end encryption, modern security forces equivalent cyber manual, etc are some examples of threat to modern society from modern tools used by terrorist group. Use of easy accessible drones by this terrorist outfit has demonstrated a future generation global security threat. They will be potentially much more success than the current capabilities.

    So far as obtaining open sources evidence is concerned, IS does not have military-grade drone capabilities. But chances that they might develop it soon cannot be ruled out. Dealing with such modern technological advancement from terrorist groups would be the biggest problem in future. Recent drone strike video is not only a propaganda advertising for crumbling group or psychological effect but is a dangerous alarm for global security. Remotely piloted bombs on terrorist hands are gravest threats for all.

    Approach of remote-controlled technology has been a very attractive tool for IS to expand their modern terrorist tactics. Technical nature of drone attacks is still unclear but t does not look like a sophisticated technological advance. This immature drone strike operational abilities could help in growing their confidence to assemble more lethal drones to provide the hope for manufacturers. This new terrorist tactic can be the most potential destructive measures for the new generation of terrorists. Latest video has a propaganda value rather than operational. However, it can be the biggest moral boost for terrorist group’s ambition. IS operatives and supporters have extensively praised and hailed this success in different online.  

    This could have been inspired from the U.S. military style MQ-9 predator drone, which killed their senior leaders. Since the declaration of “Caliphate”, IS has been utilizing various technological advantages in cyber with an aim to build their own drone fleet to Air Forces. Recently, Iraqi forces uncovered a secret IS workshop in Mosul where they were trying to manufacture its own fighter aircrafts.

    IS has used drones to reconnaissance before attack on Syrian regime Tabqa military air base near Raqqa in August 2014. Since then, they have extensively used drones in reconnaissance missions in photography and visualization of attacks in Iraq and Syria. The IS also used drones to drop explosive devices in Syrian regime held-Deir Ezzor in November 2016. Several people were killed and wounded but that remotely-guided drone attack was ineffective to target military positions. Despite inaccuracy on targets, they successfully showed their capability in ‘weaponizing’ drones. IS’ booby-trapped drone killed 2 Peshmerga forces and wounded 2 French soldiers near Mosul city on October 2, 2016.

    Modern terrorism phenomena have been rapidly changing in new forms. Terrorists are seeking armed drone to attack on advance targets without big plane and casualties. Various assessments show upcoming terrorist threats from available commercial drones. Dropping bombs by terrorist groups in future terrorist attacks would undoubtedly have devastating consequences. In January 2016, the Oxford Research Group examines various commercially available drones and concludes that such UAVs will be used in future terrorist attacks.

    IS UAVs has predictable threat on reconnaissance and propaganda rather than carrying out attacks from the sky. But chances are high that it could be able to improve drone speed, ranges and mount small weapons on drones in near future. Other global terrorist groups could be interested in such ideas. So far, even it would be difficult to achieve its ambitious goals in drone field for the IS, it is high time that the concerned agencies be aware of the growing new dimension of modern terrorist threats. We can expect IS’ will likely expand it strikes in coming days.

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    Is French anti-terror effort gaining goals in Africa?

    January 24th, 2017

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    Is French anti-terror effort gaining goals in Africa?

    French military presence in Africa is not new, it has been engaged in various  military operations across the region. But “Operation Barkhane” has different counter-terrorism operations with a regional scope. It was launched on August 1, 2014 aimed at stabilizing the region has a French pillar of counter-terrorism in Africa’s Sahel-Sahara region. This operation came after the successful “Operation Serval” military intervention in Mali in 2013 which helped in flushing out radical militant group Ansar Dine from large territories in Mali.

    “Operation Barkhane” is not only the successor of popular “Operation Serval” but is also a new regional operation. Former French colonies “G5 Sahel” – such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania & Niger involve joint counter-terrorism operation. Senegal and other regional countries also support this mission. French has deployed around 35,00 soldiers in five permanent locations among special-forces base in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou and an intelligence base in Niger’s capital Niamey. Niamey is also a crucial drone intelligence gathering base across the region.

    Open sources data show that the French has deployed 6 fighter jets, 17 helicopters, 5 drones, 10 transport aircrafts, 200 armored vehicles and 200 logistic vehicles. Such equipment cannot be enough to secure or monitor the large region. Interestingly, the operation area is 9 times larger than France or even larger than the size of Europe.

    Despite effective command and communication structure, the ongoing operation faces various crucial problems such as non-motivated underequipped ally armies, porous borders, vast desert areas, harsh terrain, vast ungoverned areas monitoring with very limited tolls, lack of logistics, lack of air supports and quick operational support, lack of necessary equipment and maintenance, difficult climate, among others.

    The situation on the ground is region still chaotic. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has broader regional footholds which has links with local radical groups from North Africa to Western Africa. AQIM goals are not only limited to Maghreb but are able to attack Iberian Peninsula to whole Europe. They are also capable in footholds to operational cells in various nations. They have been able to rapidly transform their operational base. The group’s source of funding and recruitment remains strong. So far, AQIM remains incapable of attacking Western Europe but possibilities of following AQAP-style international threat in near future cannot be ruled out.

    AQIM’s guerilla-style attacks, mine warfare, suicide bombings, assassinations, kidnapping, indiscriminate attacks and other terrorist tactics continue to harass the security forces. Various high profile attacks in regional countries as well as the sharp growing militant attacks in Northern Mali highlights the future regional terrorism threats. Counter-terrorism campaign cannot be successful through military means alone. It requires broader social, political and economic programs to sustain security success.

    Apart from AQIM and Islamic State (IS) linked threats, there are several other jihadist factions as well, which are connected with organized criminal gangs. Large number of Sahara and Sahel countries are fighting alongside with IS Iraq and Syria which could create problems leading to regional stability in future. After IS lost the ground, they could join regional groups like AQIM. Various active drugs and arms dealers engaged in facilitating and connecting with terrorist groups remain a threat for regional stability.

    Collaboration with U.S. essential

    More considerable measures are necessary for long-term counterterrorism efforts in Africa. The United States, which provided causal intelligence & logistic support on French Mali operation in 2013, must not sideline itself from “Operation Barkhane”. This operation can be transferred to U.S. leadership for broader participation of NATO countries for regional stability. French alone cannot resolve the crisis in terms of financial as well operational military equipment.

    U.S. has been engaged in ‘low profile’ close counter-terrorism cooperation in over two dozen countries in Africa. U.S. forces have been very actively engaged in “covert war” against global terrorist networks in the region. The U.S. has been heavily supporting regional wars against terrorism in Somalia and Nigeria as well and has engaged itself in capacity building, logistic assistance, training for counter-narcotics and cross border crime operations.   

    There are dozens of US military installations in Africa with disclosed and undisclosed sites for counterterrorism efforts, surveillances, security cooperation in various militaries to strength their capabilities. They play crucial logistic, training, and advise support for regional war against terrorism. Without strengthening regional countries’ military capabilities and necessary equipment, further war would be difficult.

    Growing western security presence in Africa can provide the hope for regional stability in the volatile continent. However, it requires additional coordination with a broader regional engagement. Western presence in Africa is obliged for regional stability and to prevent potential threat of future consequences. Sometimes beyond the counterterrorism mission foreign military intervention requires to protect state authority to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. Western forces’ can play role in preventing massacres by some dictators in the African region. The U.S., E.U. and African trilateral new defense cooperation could lead to an effective measure for long-term counter terrorism effort to ensuring regional stability.

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    Multidimensional threats on global war on terror

    January 17th, 2017

     

    By Pramod Sedhain.

     

    Global terrorism scenario is still at a worse level. Despite the fact that the U.S. and its allies have been engaged in fighting and foiling several deadly terrorist plots and attacks for over 15 years, the global terrorism phenomenon has become an ever-changing threat. Various nations, recently European nations have witnessed series of unprecedented terrorist attacks.

    While al Qaeda was still a global threat, the rise of another superior terrorist group Islamic State (IS) since summer 2014 has added more woes. The U.S. has been working closely with many nations to counter these two groups. Various domestic causes, instability and chaos have been harboring these groups. However, global terrorism landscape has significantly changed since the rise of IS.

    Rapid rise of random terrorist violence, cyber terrorism to sympathizer attacks have recently seen as a new challenge to minimize their spreading capabilities. In fact, the global terrorist groups are not in a winning streak but still pose significant terrorist risks. Despite series of losses on territory, recruitment and finance, the IS has been making attempts to indiscriminate terrorist attacks against West.

    The weakening al Qaeda has shifted its operational strategy to preserve terrorism capabilities from various franchises. Hidden core are still capable to make strategic-operational ties to local franchises for deadly terrorist attacks. IS wants to preserve their terrorism capabilities from its affiliate groups. The U.S. is doing its best to control such shameless global terrorist threats but the wars have become prolonged asymmetric warfare. Not only al-Qaeda and IS but also their franchises,, other local extremists have been posing multi-dimensional threats.

    The killing of terrorist kingpin Bin Laden in Pakistan’s Abbottabad safe house on May 2, 2011 weakened the entire Al-Qaeda central network. However, new threat has emerged including the rise of ultra-brutal group IS from Iraq and Syria. Effectiveness of U.S. forces is not doubtful but the growing homegrown radicalization, leader-less attacks, terrorist groups’ provoking messages, various radical religious ideological backing, diversifying the funds, sophisticated propaganda capabilities and cyber-based jihad have been the key problems as of now.

    Global terrorist groups have been recruiting more people, creating instability in various countries due to which security vacuums has become a key challenge for Counter-Terrorism (CT) efforts. Other than the rise of ISIS, the political instability in the Middle East and North Africa has posed significant challenge and threat to global counterterrorism efforts. Civil war in Yemen, Libya and Syria has been a breeding ground for global terrorist groups.

    Jeopardizing situation in various nations has provided terrorist groups safe harbor, exploiting options besides increasing their operational strength. Horn of Africa, Sahel to Gulf of Guinea and North Africa are still a great concern for the international community.

    Dealing with such gruesome terrorist groups, which many nations are still facing is not an easy task. Several nations are vulnerable to such attacks. Innocent civilians, children and women are basically targeted by the newly emerged al Qaeda splinter devil terrorist group Islamic State (IS).

    Coordinated terrorist threat against the U.S. homeland is less dangerous than ever but modern threat emerging from homegrown online radicalization to lone-wolf attacks has been more dangerous. The U.S. intelligence, security and law enforcement are much capable of dealing to these growing terrorist threats almost real time beyond the border in various parts of complex grounds. The day-to-day confrontation against global terrorist groups has minimized terrorist threats in the U.S. homeland as well as other countries.

    Post 9/11 global war on terror effective security legislation and covert operations thwarted dozens of deadly coordinate terror plots in the U.S., many more far from the border. Throughout the one and half decade of ‘war on terror’, the U.S. forces have been able to eliminate terrorist threats far from the homeland by using all necessary means. Despite successfully foiling hundreds of terrorist attacks plots in the U.S. homeland, the U.S. CT campaigns have faced tough challenges in various other countries.

    Following the tragic coordinated terrorist attacks by hijacked airliners in New York’s twin towers and targets to Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001, the U.S. began ‘global war on terror’. Al-Qaeda’s deadly terrorist attacks provoked the U.S. to response on their hideouts and supporters. President George W. Bush addressed a Joint Session of Congress and declared “War on Terror” on September 20, 2001. Bush said: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” This reshaped the global scene forever and eventually led the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The U.S. and her allies began ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ on October 7 intensifying air strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban targets that continued for 5 days in Afghanistan. On December 7, Taliban lost almost all its stronghold. The operation primarily aimed to kill Osama bin Laden, which initially was unsuccessful but expelled entire al-Qaeda from Afghan territory, dismantled all training camps and hideouts as well as overthrow the al-Qaeda host Taliban regime. The U.S. officially ended its 13 years combat operation in Afghanistan and since then turned their mission in support. But the Afghan situation still remains fragile without the U.S. support and there could be another Iraq-like situation in future.

    On 19 March 2003, U.S. President Bush announced the ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Following the day U.S. forces began the invasion of Iraq and captured Baghdad on April 10. The U.S. military intervention in Iraq toppled brutal dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime. The U.S. President Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq over on May 1.

    Superior U.S. can easily achieve its victory within a very quick span of time but terrorist groups launched series of suicide attacks even before the formation of the post-Saddam civilian government. In August, series of suicide bombings hit Jordanian embassy, U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and a senior Iraqi Shia cleric was assassinated by bomb attack in Najaf. Coalition formed the first post-Saddam government and started political transitional process on September 1. The U.S. ‘Operation Red Dawn’ led Saddam Hussein captured alive on December 13 in Ad-Dawr, Tikrit who was legally executed on 2006 Dec. 30 after series of court hearing.

    Despite different political and diplomatic initiatives, the U.S. failed to pursue the post-Saddam effective stabilization. Washington planners focused more military action rather than difficult ground fact on geo-political, tribal, religious and ethnic factors. Saddam’s loyalists, non-state actors, disbanded Saddam’s military, security and intelligence wings and terrorists continued to be active to destabilize Iraq. Deterioration of security situation subsequently led to dangerous insurgency against coalition forces that led to sectarian violence by al-Qaeda affiliated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi group.

    Saddam was an immoral brutal tyrant who murdered hundreds of thousands of own people and destabilized the region. Removal of his regime was a necessity for Iraqi people where they demonstrated overwhelming support to the U.S.-led operation. But failure of political, economic and social issues led to the new cycle of crisis.

    Since 2004, Zarqawi formally pledged alliance with al-Qaeda and led the Sunni insurgency. The U.S. collaboration with Sunni tribal leaders significantly decreased the group’s ability and Zarqawi was killed by U.S. airstrike in 2006. Without assessing the situation on the ground as well as further threats, President Barrack Obama decided to pull out all American forces from Iraq in 2011.

    Iraq’s internal political divisions and Syrian civil war paved the way for the rise of terrorists. After series of breaks by Iraqi prisoners since 2012, they captured large areas in Syria. The al Qaeda in Iraq became more superior to central. Since 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi severed all ties with Al-Qaeda and declared Islamist Caliphate in June, 2014. After the IS posed direct threat to Iraqi capital, President Obama authorized air strikes against the group in August 2014. Obama’s set “degrade and ultimately destroy” strategy against IS but hesitated to go for ground forces.  Since then, the U.S. has continued its fight against Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and beyond.

    The Global CT arena is deepening on U.S. assistances and wide-ranging contribution which still must require to stabilizing the global order. Terrorism threat has not been confined to only a single region but is beyond that – from multiple countries to multiple regions. The U.S. is considerably degrading large scale global terrorist but still huge challenge remains. The U.S. has been taking bigger counterterrorism burden across the globe. Many nations still hesitate to take serious part in this drive or battle but are still seizing the opportunity from the U.S., which is making unwavering efforts to establishing international security.

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    How real is CBRN/WMD threat from terrorist groups?

    December 14th, 2016

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

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    Widespread global terrorism threat has become multidimensional in recent times. Conventional terrorism has been a nightmare scenario since they take control of the ground from various nations. Modern terrorist groups are unlikely to follow the traditional groups of the 20th century.

    Terrorist groups have been trying to use and obtain various modern tools. Assumptions are that global terrorist groups’ obtaining of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) or weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has been gradually becoming reality since they have been holding the grounds in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

    Acquiring WMD weapons has been Al Qaeda’s and Islamic State’s (IS) top priority. This motivation is an alarming sign for every country. The key concern now is how intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies thwart terrorist groups’ ambitious goals. Easy availability of modern multi-purpose technology could go to the wrong hands and could lead to potential making of dirty bomb, which has been considered as a major challenge in the new century. The U.S. has been taking active initiatives after the devastating 9/11 Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.

    Last year, an EU report alarmed high possible of IS ‘dirty-bomb’ attacks against the West. Some of the E.U. nations, especially France, Germany and Belgium are still alert with the contingency plans for possible terrorist WMD attacks. ISIS has used mustard and chlorine gases in Iraq and Syria several times. IHS Markit report indicated that IS has used chemical agents more than 52 times in Iraq and Syria since 2014.

    Al Qaeda’s top leadership has continued seeking to acquire CBRN or WMD. Islamic State (IS) has been able to gain deadly toxins stockpiled in Syria and Iraq has been a greater concern for western intelligence agencies. In 1998, Laden himself had mentioned his desire to acquire WMD. The then Deputy, now chief Ayman Zawahiri, highlighted his vision to obtain WMD from former Soviet scientists in Central Asia in December 2001. Al-Qaeda officially declared terrorist network goals to kill millions of Americans by WMD in 2002. Their intense preparation to gain or obtain WMD still exists through manufacturing, buying, stolen via their affiliates, sympathizers, traffickers, middlemen or simply through any means.

    The realizing the possibility of less likely to conduct another 9/11 style major terrorist attacks on the U.S., the Al-Qaeda has been planning various terrorists plots including the use of WMD. The U.S. intelligence and security agencies have continued to thwart Al-Qaeda orchestrated several large scale terrorist attacks since 9/11. Al-Qaeda could prepare or intensify its efforts to acquire WMD for mass casualties after series of failed coordinated terrorist plots in the U.S. soils. They have been making efforts to acquire these deadly materials from former experts from former Soviet Union countries, Libya, Syria or Pakistan.

    Global terrorist groups had received some chemical agents from captured Syrian regime army bases. Chlorine and sarin gas, which was stored in regime barracks later went in the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front (currently rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) and IS hands. Former extremist militants claimed seizing of barrels filled with chlorine, sarin, and mustard gas.

    After the Syrian regime’s deadly Chemical attack on August 2013, the U.S. declared military response holding the regime accountable but the Russian proposal to surrender control over regime chemical weapons changed the diplomatic resolve. Effectively removal of the chemical weapons remain unclear which could go to wrong hands.

    IS has been able to seize Iraq’s various chemical agent’s sources as well as former dictator Saddam Hussein’s WMD experts. Notably, IS seized sulfuric compounds from chemical factory in Mishraq, Iraq as well other chemical sources. Thought these materials were not direct chemical weapons, they could be potentially dangerous in terrorist purposes. Since then, the U.S. has paid close attention to eliminate new weapons of mass destruction programs threat from IS terrorist group.

    Successful targeted killing of Hussein’s Muthana chemical weapon factory expert Abu Malik (Salih Jasim Muhammed Falah al-Sabawi) on January 30, 2015 limited the group’s ability to obtain dangerous weapons. His past experience and expertise has been seen as a threat that he could provide training to IS to produce a chemical weapons capability.

    US captured the IS’s WMD mastermind Sleiman Daoud al-Afari from Badoosh near Mosul in February 2016. The U.S. foiled IS’s various plots to procure biological and radiological weapons before reaching its goals either by airstrikes on facilities or targeted killing on involvements. Despite all these, the group still possesses crude WMD materials. The U.S. continued covert sabotage efforts forced IS attempts goal incapacitated but their motive still remains undeterred.

    Fortunately, terrorist group’s full technical ability to develop WMD has been extremely limited. However, they could entice, penetrate or even infiltrate former Pakistani, Iraqi, Syrian or Libyan scientists and experts to obtain these weapons. Foiled IS plan to attack on France’s and Belgium’s nuclear power plants were an alarming sign, which still requires vigilance against such possible plans. Terrorist group Al-Qaeda has been aiming to acquire WMD since 1990’s. Global terrorist groups are making efforts to obtain dirty bomb for catastrophic attacks against western nuclear plants.

    Terrorist groups’ motive has been clear. They simply want mass-casualty in Western homeland anyways. Therefore, these groups are still determined to acquire such weapons. Terrorist intentions to use these weapons will be real and dangerous not only to the civilians but is equally dangerous to economy and ecology.

    Therefore, the counter terrorism forces must realize the escalating danger and should learn lessons learn from Pakistani A.Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling network. Western countries were under dark about Khan’s nuclear smuggling network for nearly 2 decades. Some rogue states still threaten global security and stability which could have a serious financial problem and even engage trade for illicit nuclear fissile materials for hard-currency. If such a deal is made through illegal means or reach to any person running Khan-style smuggling, this could go to wrong hands, this will have a bitter and unfortunate consequences.  

    The scale of CBRN threat from global terrorist groups Al-Qaeda and Islamic State is real. Terrorist’s wisdom must not be underestimated at any cost. Counter terrorism efforts still require pro-active approaches against such loose-operating terrorist groups. Western intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies are yet to acquire success in preventing such materials from going to the wrong hands.

    Modern global terrorist circumstance has been unpredictable which needs to pay greater attention over alarming terrorist groups multidimensional threats, trends and tactics. Without making an effective surveillance, the former Iraqi, Syrian, Libya, Pakistan nuclear factory experts’ catastrophic consequences could happen anytime. Such incidences cannot be ruled out. Terrorist’s plans remain in dark, however, it is prerequisite to go for a systematic tracking on proliferation networks.

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    Pakistan’s militants has been weakened, not defeated

    December 13th, 2016

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

     

     

    Pakistani military proactive operation in North Waziristan has gained a notable achievement for counter terrorism (CT) efforts. Militant groups have no longer been able to hold large swaths of territory in tribal areas. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups have been less dangerous than ever. Defeating militant groups rely on several hideouts in restive mountainous areas in the tribal agency of North Waziristan. Current military success has shown enthusiastic signs for difficult fight against terrorism.

    Following the Taliban faction attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on 8 June 2014, the Pakistan Army launched on “Zarb-e-Azb operation” against militants groups on 15 June, 2014. Since then, the army set operation objective to flush out all foreign and local militants hiding in North Waziristan achieved notable CT gain. “Seek, Destroy, Clear, Hold” military strategy of operation significantly improved the country security situation as well as decreased terrorist violence across the country.

    Defeating TTP group has still survived components such as shelter, safe haven, training ground, logistics, manpower, finances, and other key enablers that allow the networks remain alive. Despite large part of hideouts being cleared by army, militant groups still remain operational in new pockets. They have the ability to attack soft targets and intimidating civilians.

    TTP and other militants still have some terrorist capabilities, operational command and control, hideouts, caves and tunnels in Northern Waziristan but their significant part of the operational capabilities have been broken. TTP is now less attractive and is gradually losing its organization but degrading group remains a formidable challenge to Pakistan. However, this does not much pose previous level of threat.

    During the operation, the Pakistani army destroyed large part of militant hideouts, a deadly militant’s stronghold has been cleared, thwarted a number of terrorist plots, neutralized terrorists offensive capabilities, reduced their ability to assaults on major cities behind their hideouts, hundreds of suspected terrorists apprehended, cleared militant’s sanctuaries in tribal area. Figures also suggest significant reduction of number of terror attacks. Military claimed to have broken the backbone of the terrorists in tribal areas.

    Combating terrorism in North Waziristan is essential to overall Pakistani security. Without securing the Pak-Afghan mountainous border from militant’s hideouts, security forces cannot prevent further terrorist attacks. Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas has been a key concern since U.S. began global war on terror in 2001 which became key CT frontline since one decade.

    After series of losing the ground, the group’s cultivation of recruitment TTP could pose transnational security threat. They are still active in Afghanistan as well as small militant groups have been engaged in Syrian conflict along with Al-Qaeda-linked groups. Their connection with global terrorist network proves that they have destructive terrorism capabilities. Different TTP splinter factions do not have much strength but has been insisting on sectarian violent. Dominance of sectarian violent groups cannot neutralize without a strong security means.

    TTP was founded on December 14, 1007 with the unification of 13 different militant groups in South Waziristan under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud. He was a little-known militant leader, which the West assumed local scope and did not seen rapidly rise on capabilities. After Pakistani security forces stormed on Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad on July 2007, radical group took to violence opportunity.

    Since the formation of the TTP, the Pakistani terrorism dynamics changed very rapidly. TTP started vicious suicide bombing campaigns in Pakistani cities, offensive against security forces in tribal areas, expanded their recruitment and training camps in South Waziristan, succeeded in capturing large swathes of territory including Swat valley and Bajaur.

    Despite its nature of tribally-motivated local group, TTP emerged as a transnational security threat. TTP’s growing capabilities was an alarming sign for the U.S., which has continued its engagement to limit its transnational terrorism capabilities. America began targeted drone strikes against group leaders and killed founder leader Mehsud by covert drone strike in August 2009. Pakistani army formally launched ‘Operation Rah-e-Nijat’ offensive against TTP in South Waziristan on November 2009 which ended on March 30, 2010 by recapturing the previous TTP captured areas. TTP fled to North Waziristan and reorganized its capacities.

    TTP has not only a domestic threat in Pakistan but also a global threat. Suicide attacks in Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan in December 30, 2009, attempted terrorist attack in Times Square, New York in May 1, 2010 was directly linked with TTP. Many deadly terrorist attacks including 2002 Bali bombings and 2004 Madrid bombing’s alleged mastermind allegedly traveled from Pakistan to Spain after meeting with senior Al-Qaeda leadership in 2003 to finalize the terrorist plot.

    2005 London terrorist bombings also suspected that there has been a connection with the Pakistani tribal areas. Al-Qaeda operative Rashid Rauf a Britain and Pakistan dual citizen who was arrested over 2006 Trans Atlantic aircraft plot escaped from Pakistani custody in December 2007 was eventually killed by CIA’s drone attack in November 2008. U.S. citizen Bryant Neal Vinas also received Al-Qaeda terrorist training from Pakistan tribal areas who was captured by Pakistani forces in 2008 and handed-over to the U.S. These are some examples of how dangerous dozens of plots and attacks were traced in militant-controlled Pakistani tribal belt.

    The U.S. covert war has been a remarkable achievement when it comes to the most serious active threat in Pakistan tribal areas. After a US drone strike killed TTP Hakimullah Mehsud in 2013, TTP strength declined significantly. After the death of a ruthless, charming and charismatic leader, the group’s operational capabilities decreased significantly due to internal fighting and split over various functioning. Since then, they have not been able to gain any significant military success except for numerous terror attacks across the country.

    Challenge ahead

    Current gain is tactical rather than strategic in long term perspective. This has provided big confidence for security forces. Pakistan has not yet achieved its full CT objectives. Significant reduction of violence has seen positive progress but still needs to carefully watch over militant group’s future potential ability to conduct attacks. Isolated and weaker militant groups’ ability could be stronger in a very short period of time. Militant groups will be able to easily expand their capabilities, territory, manpower, and money for operation if Pakistan fails to continue sustained and consistent clean-up operations in the tribal areas. Vulnerabilities will remain without more concrete steps to gain clear goals to eradicate terrorism. Pakistan must form a new security mechanism in tribal belts to improve sustainable security situation and regulating porous border to check any potential new wave of terrorism in future.  

    Current achievement would not be enough for security measures. The motive has to be to defeat terrorism in tribal areas which still requires effective ideological battle, some sort of reconciliation, improvement of socio-economic conditions, awareness campaign, moderate education, etc. Theoretically, Pakistan can achieve their CT objectives which depend on sincere desire of military and political leaders. Despite facing series of setbacks, TTP has still been able to operate low intensity terrorist attacks, operational media propaganda mechanism, hideout and training areas. Current achievement will only be temporary if the government failed to provide effective service or performance in the tribal areas. TTP could be unified again to expand its networks as well as to pursue its terrorist goals.

    Military pressure alone cannot crush terrorists in the long run. It requires effective social and political programs. Pakistan must be aware of potential threat of militant group’s re-emergence or growing sectarian nature of violence. TTP and its splinter groups’ vicious terror network are still intact which has been able to strike beyond their hideouts. If Pakistan failed to provide opportunity for local people, standard administrative control over tribal area, secure social justice and schooling the religious intolerance in school present gain will be remain unpredictable.  

    Pakistan is slowly winning the war against terrorists. However, it is not yet a safer place. Root out militant groups still needs broader counter-terrorism strategy. If Pakistan army fails to reinforce its presence in tribal areas, they could reemerge some day or the other. We can only say that current Pakistani military achievement is significant but still not enough. A long way to go, indeed.

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    How powerful is Al-Qaeda’s intelligence capability?

    December 11th, 2016

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

     

    Al Qaeda Flag Translation

    In the 4th week of November, Al-Qaeda’s most dangerous Yemeni franchise al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released confession video of six men. The accused were executed on charges of locating the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone strikes for AQAP leaders and fighters.

    In the third week of November, Somali al Qaeda-affiliate Al Shabaab released similar nature of video of its own Tanzanian fighter Issa Mwaisige. Mwaisige admitted of receiving $600 from Rwanda intelligence to identify any Rwandan fighters in Al Shabab. He was executed over US and Rwandan spy charges.

    These two Al-Qaeda franchise’s latest videos have neither been independently verified nor have been any news priority of these cases. Charges of treason, apostasy and espionage would have been common if the involvement of al-Qaeda affiliated local groups is established in their control areas. Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate groups have counter-surveillance skill and ability concerning various forms of intelligence in offensive and defensive postures. Al-Qaeda’s central has a high level intelligence planning, assessment & evaluation capabilities than its local groups.

    Intelligence apparatus has been a key tool to Al-Qaeda survival and success. Since its foundation, Al-Qaeda global terrorist network has been highly prioritizing on its clandestine intelligence gathering. Al-Qaeda centre has been conducting very complicated intelligence operation. Al-Qaeda has rapidly changed its conventional terrorism landscape into modern and deadly forms.

    Various Al-Qaeda’s intelligence-based terrorist operations has been an unbelievable evidence of the group’s highest capabilities, including penetrating into the U.S. intelligence agencies. Undoubtedly, well-coordinated terrorist attacks have been dependent on planning and intelligence gathering on the intended targets.

    Al-Qaeda intelligence penetration story began from Egypt when they were able to penetrate into the U.S. intelligence through Egyptian Islamic Jihad agent, a former Egyptian army officer Ali Mohamed. Ali was hired to infiltrate into a Hezbollah tied mosque in Germany. He somehow managed to get the visa, traveled to the U.S., become a naturalized citizen, and later served as U.S. army with Green Berets and Delta Force train and then FBI informant. He was the most secret radical believer who eventually betrayed U.S. to serve al-Qaeda terrorist agenda.

    Ali trained Laden’s bodyguard in Sudan, trained radical in Afghanistan during 1990’s. He took surveillance pictures, planned and facilitated Al-Qaeda simultaneous terrorist attacks on U.S. Embassy in Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in August 7, 1998. Ali had been serving the terrorist interest with the instruction of the then al-Qaeda second-in-command and current chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to betray the U.S. agencies. Two weeks after the embassy bombings, Ali was arrested by FBI with concrete evidence. Ali’s role in terrorist attacks proved the unbelievable devastating treacherous betrayal by infiltrated terrorist operator.

    Since 1996, the Al-Qaeda set it global operation centre in Bin laden’s friend Ahmed al-Hada’s house in Madbah neighbourhood of Sana, Yemen. That communication hub was used as a link between Al-Qaeda centre in Afghanistan to Al-Qaeda cells in Middle East, Africa and beyond. The U.S. National Security Agency had intercepted Al-Qaeda leader Laden’s satellite phone (numbers 873682505331 & 873-682505331) since he lived in Sudan as well Sana’s communication conversation since its establishment. But they failed to provide transcripts on timely basis to the concerned body.

    Interrogations of captive Al-Qaeda suicide bomber Mohamed al-Owhali led the key breakthrough to identify the al-Qaeda global network. He admitted to the investigators that he made a call to Ahmed al-Hada before three months of embassy bombing in Kenya. After pinpointing the Al-Qaeda logistics and intelligence center in Yemen, the U.S. intelligence foiled a series of plots by intercepting al-Qaeda’s communication. Some of the foiled plot were deadly attacks plots on US Embassy in Paris, U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, attempted airline hijacking in Africa but failed to thwart the same house linked plot USS Cole in Yemen on 2000 and deadly 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    U.S. intelligence had intercepted two al-Qaeda operatives frequent call and identified that one was a high-raking operative Abu Zubaydah another ‘Mukhtar’ had been mystery. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, U.S. began world-wide hunting mission to capture or kill high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders. The U.S. with Pakistani security forces raided on Al-Qaeda safe houses in Faisalabad on March 2002 where they captured long time target al-Qaeda’s operation chief Abu Zubaydah. Only after Zubaydah’s interrogation revealed the ‘Mukhtar’ as a 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM).   

    If that uncertain individual was identified on time, they could have foiled the biggest terrorist attacks in the U.S. CIA special operatives in Pakistan captured KSM on March, 2003 but never judged that little known man had planned 9/11 attacks. The U.S. closed surveillances over Bin laden intention since 1996 but never thought that Al-Qaeda had planned other channels rather than Laden and Zawahiri.

    Assassination of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud on September 9, 2001 proves Al-Qaida’s sophisticated intelligence operation. Dubbed as “Lion of Panjshir” charismatic and skilled warrior Massoud was an enemy of Al-Qaeda host Taliban’s fundamentalist repressive regime.

    Al-Qaeda’s central orchestrated careful and critical plot to assassinate legendary enemy Mossoud by deploying two North African agents posing as television journalists with stolen French journalist video camera and stolen Belgian passports. After spending 15 days for an interview with Massoud in the Panjshir Valley, Al-Qaeda agents were able to assassinate their greatest strategic threat in an unexpected way by detonating explosives-packed video camera and suicide belt. The Taliban provided sanctuary to al Qaeda, which was an alarming sign for the U.S. since Embassies bombing in Africa and U.S CT officials had deepening ties with Northern Alliance since 1999 with provided covert aid.

    Other terrorist plots show that the terrorist’s dangerous intelligence ability to penetrate into U.S. intelligence service. Jordanian intelligence agency General Intelligence Directorate (GID) had offered U.S. to locate the high-level target especially on Zawahiri through its best human sources Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi. The U.S. did not miss such an exceptional offer to penetrate and located the Al-Qaeda high command in the Pakistani tribal areas.

    Trusted evidence including pictures and footage confirmed that he was staying with al-Qaida number two Zawahiri. He briefed some trusted insights terrorist hideouts, ground situation, Zawahiri’s behavior and health, etc. All his information provided confirmed with the evidence and his connection with high ranking al-Qaeda leaders. Unprecedented measures to kill Al-Qaeda senior leaders eventually proved a big gamble.

    Balawi went to Pakistani tribal area to locate the targets but returned with an already made video. He blew himself up on 30 December 2009 at the CIA Forward Operating Base Chapman on December 30, 2009 near Khost in Afghanistan. Brainwashing Al-Qaeda and TTP double agent skillfully penetrated inside U.S. Intelligence facility and killed at least 10 including 7 CIA officers. This series of Al-Qaeda intelligence operation is the biggest lesson for the U.S. intelligence community. Various security forces seized and declassified manual, guides and other documents showing the terrorist group’s scale of intelligence gathering and operating.

    These series of intelligence operations is an example to show that the Al-Qaeda leadership has extremely effective strategic intelligence capabilities. Their communication, operation, planning, methods or generally topmost body functioning structure still cannot be traced and monitored by modern western intelligence agencies. Laden escaped separate assassination attempts in 1990’s. Zawahiri survived more than four U.S. assassination attempts last in August of 2007. He is in a mystery since the last one decade. Saudi’s attempt to assassinate Laden and Egypt’s failed attempt to assassinate Aymaan al-Zawahiri demonstrates the difficulty in infiltrating since the al-Qaeda foundation.

    Modern intelligence gathering methods or technological intelligence gathering over al-Qaeda is very limited. Interrogations of captured suspects or deep infiltration inside terrorist groups have become the key methods for western intelligence agencies. Al-Qaeda has been able to change their strategies to survive and is difficult to detect by western agencies. Al-Qaeda has been able to transfer its fighters to training experts in Libya, Syria and to other countries to expand its reach. The group’s intelligence collection strategy and capabilities remain unclear, which is an emerging dangerous threat to counter terrorism efforts.

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    Has Afghan government failed in its fight against Taliban?

    December 6th, 2016

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

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    Taliban insurgents have gained momentum in Afghanistan since the announcement of the “Operation Omari” on 12 April 2016. Full-scale offensive to capture multiple districts demonstrates Taliban’s growing strength in the country. Taliban insurgency has gained one of the biggest momentums ever since they were toppled by the U.S.-led military intervention in 2001.

    Effectiveness of Kabul government is in serious doubt since Taliban has been able to run parallel government in large parts of rural areas. Taliban has not only controlled rural areas but has simultaneous approached in 5 provincial capitals Kunduz, Baghlan, Farah, Uruzgan and Helmand in recent times indicating increased security threats. Most of Helmand’s province districts are under Taliban control.

    Despite American training, advise, logistic, weapons and even special forces, including air support to Afghan forces, the Taliban has been making repeated efforts to overrun the country’s major cities in various directions such as two Northern capitals Kunduz City and Pul-i-Khumri, two Southern cities Tarin Kot and Lashkar Gah as well as the western city Farah. Taliban still remains on the outskirts of many Afghan cities, routinely shutting down the country’s key highways. Taliban have released a video showing capturing of hundreds of security positions, seizure of the modern military hardware, surrendering of soldiers, which certainly are signs of the Kabul government’s weak strategy.

    Taliban’s recent gain can be a long term threat to Kabul. Such situation shows growing difficulties in defeating the Taliban by military means. Taliban has been effectively running their political, military, social and propaganda apparatus operation. They have systematically mobilized thousands of fighters nationwide who have now high morale and resources after gaining the recent ground. Taliban has not targeted any regional and other foreign countries except the U.S. and its allies.

    Taliban media outlets continued assurances to protecting others except Western nations is an evidence of growing ties with these countries. Taliban has shifted their traditional strategy along with their growing strength. Despite its nature of violent jihadist ideology and terrorist tactics to gain its goals, the Taliban continues to seek diplomatic and political support from neighboring countries and has adopted more pragmatic approach on the ground. Taliban has been successful to isolate government presence in rural areas, as it engages with local communities by maintaining smooth coordination with local groups which was loosely affiliated in the past and has adopted a soft tolerance with the marginalized groups to gain public support.

    Taliban militants have demonstrated more capability than the government forces who have received continued and significant military support from the U.S. and its allies. Taliban’s growing capabilities of recruiting, training, financing, logistics and intelligence have been an alarming sign for the U.S. The U.S. heavy involvement will help in stabilizing the situation in the major cities. However, currently the ground situation is deteriorating day to day. Expansion of America’s involvement with more airstrikes against insurgents, giving the U.S. military wider latitude to support Afghan forces both in the air and on the ground will at least block the Taliban’s gain on the ground.

    The U.S. officially ended its 13 years combat operation in Afghanistan on December 28, 2014. Since then the Taliban has been gaining the ground. Afghanistan remains a vital U.S. priority country where they spent tremendous blood and treasure. After various strategic failures in Afghanistan, the U.S. even went for political solution with the Taliban. But this still can be costly on the table to re-engage a full scale military presence to neutralize Taliban threat.

    America’s Afghan war requires conclusion in anyway, which however is not an easy task. Without the U.S. stepping up pressure on Pakistan and the Gulf nations, Afghanistan’s peace process will not come on track. Taliban requires breaking ties with Al-Qaeda which they does not want to openly show its connection. Al Qaeda is even not a serious matter to the U.S. in Afghanistan since their leaders and commanders have already fled from there. However, the U.S. can neutralize them if they emerge again through other ways.

    Peaceful solution is possible if regional countries truly put immense pressure on the Taliban leadership. But the hidden reproach of Afghan neighboring countries toward Taliban is the greatest problem now. After the rise of Islamic State (IS) threat in Afghanistan, the regional countries has been seeing Taliban as a counterweight to the IS and other foreign jihadists movement. Covert cooperation from foreign nations provides opportunity to expand Taliban’s ambition and violence.

    The current situation in Afghanistan has raised fear of the U.S. to safeguarding the Kabul government in the long term. Afghan government has failed to show or prove its capabilities to effectively lead the country. International community has been skeptical about the Kabul government but they do not want or allow it to collapse in the Iraqi style. Despite receiving U.S. heavy support, the Afghan government has failed to initiate effective campaign against Taliban.

    The current situation in Afghanistan doesn’t show any signs of optimism about the Afghan government’s ability to maintain stability. U.S. strategists are well aware of the nature of weak Afghan government and the security institutions. However, there are no options to prevent. It is still unclear about the policy of the next U.S. President Donald Trump towards Afghanistan. The Afghan issue did not quite figure out during the whole election process or debates. But the Trump administration, it seems, will not ignore the Afghan crisis but would rather handle more directly and will not tolerate foreign meddling against its vital national security interests.

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    Comprehensive view on IS’s Khorasan province and future perspective

    November 27th, 2016

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    After series of failed attempts to gain control of the ground and high-profile attacks, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has started carrying out horrific atrocity on civilians. Extreme violence over innocent civilians ISKP’s growing brutal tactic. It’s been crystal clear how this IS ultra-brutal group has been carrying out murderous death cult. Despite continued struggle for existence, ISKP has been able to infiltrate the cities and make gruesome attacks on civilian targets.

    ISKP recent attacks in Afghan’s Kabul was suicide blast at Baqir ul-Uloom mosque on 21 November, suicide attacks in Pakistan’s Shah Noorani Shrine in the hub town of Balochistan on 12 November, mass civilian execution in Ghor province on 4 November, deadly suicide bombing in Quetta hospital on 8 August are some of the examples of the group’s indiscriminate violence. Some of these terrorist acts show that ISKP terror threats are prevalent and still remain in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Underestimation or ignorance on the part of Afghan and Pakistan governments over IS paved the way for the rise and consolidation of IS. Self-proclaimed caliphate’s have certainly some key ambitions to establish regional franchise in South Asia. Strategic geographical location, easy borders to inflict various nations, factional rivalries within brutal Pakistani terrorist groups, possible sympathetic population, overshadowing rival global terrorist al-Qaeda has key factors of priority to establish new province in the region.

    IS initially succeeded in attracting and enticing Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters – – flustered group who were declined capabilities and rival factionalism. Pakistan army offensive in North Waziristan “Operation Zarb-e-Azb” forced TTP fighters to flee into Afghanistan which was an easy opportunity to attract in new powerful global network.

    Many TTP commanders were dissatisfied with the new leadership after the U.S. drone strike killed group’s charismatic leader Hakimullah Mehsud in 2013. For the most sophisticated and wealthy terrorist group Islamic State (IS), which was trying to expand its network globally, this was a good opportunity. They were also able to recruit some Afghan Taliban fighters as well al-Qaida operatives.

    IS had been considering its franchise in South Asia with high priority since 2014 but they officially announced on January 2015. IS central spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani announced the Khorasan province. Former Pakistani Taliban’s commander Hafiz Saeed Khan led the group. ISKP emerged from Nangarhar province inciting brutal attack on civilians, rival Taliban insurgents and Afghan security forces.

    Clandestine collaboration with Afghan-based other terrorist networks including Fidayee Karwan, Sia Pushan, Quetta Shura, Tora Bora Jihadi group, Gul Buddin Hekmatyar group, among others expanded their network without much difficulty.   These terrorist groups had financial, logistic and manpower crisis which they later gained from new branded group ISKP for existence.

    IS’s secret collaboration with Pakistan-based groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat, TTP Jamaat Al Ahrar, Tehreek-i-Khilafat, Sawt-al-Ummah etc. led to easy recruits as well as running hidden networks of finance, manpower and logistic from Durand Line. They were able to expand their terror networks in Federally Administered Tribal Agencies of Balochistan and Punjab relatively in a very short period of time. The group’s center’s vast expertise on technology has been an inspiration to provide them with the leverage against other rival terrorist organizations.

    Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) leader Usman Ghazi announced the support to Islamic State on September 2014 and IMU’s spiritual leader Sheikh Muhammad Ali sworn allegiance to the group on July 2015 and pledged alliance with IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. IMU further supported the strength of the ISKP position. Such support boosted their aim to spread across Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asian nations. Royal United Service Institute has estimated that about 7,000-8,500 fighters are currently affiliated with the group in 2016. The U.N report on September 2015 assessed ISKP presence in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

    The emergence of ISKP quickly transformed jihadist landscape in Afghan-Pak boarders. ISKP established itself as the most capable group to attract foreign fighters in new brand through effective recruitments, sectarian attacks, strong wealth, well resources, brutal tactic, smuggling, terrorizing strategy, kidnapping, effective propaganda campaigns through multiple media outlets, radio stations while aggressively promoting the group before U.S. pinpoint drone strike. ISKP established new base in Afghanistan that overshadowed the global terrorist network al-Qaeda and multiple pressure for local insurgent group Taliban. The group aggressively tried to unite all Pakistani, Afghan and Central Asian groups under its umbrella, which eventually failed after multiple interventions.

    Growing ISKP vulnerabilities in Afghanistan alarmed the U.S. intelligence community which has been closely tracking the group’s activities since the beginning. The U.S. started to target strikes to deny ISKP foothold in the country. U.S. started hunting down their leadership, enhancing efforts to control the ISK flow of militants, funding and logistics. Series of killings on senior ISK leaders Hafiz Saeed Khan, Saad Emarati, Mullah Anas, Sheikh Gul Zaman al-Fateh, Shahidullah Shahid, Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim are the examples of successful U.S. covert war against ISKP group.

    Is has been rapidly losing its ability and ground but has still posed the strength of destructive terrorist attacks. IS has limited presence in very small areas in Afghanistan and has been unable to gain long-term foothold on the ground. IS influence has been declining after most of their senior commanders were killed in battles while most of key posts replaced by other low-profile fighters. ISKP is no longer an attractive group for new recruits due to its declining operational and organizational capabilities followed by lack of senior leaders and locations, funding, logistic and wining sentiments.

    We can expect that this frustrated ISKP group will be able to recruit poor people for heinous terror attacks in a short period of time but it will not be able to hold its influence on the ground. The question of how the group’s future will be determined as how local forces can destroy ISKP recruiting tools and finance. Some of the Pakistan-based brutal terrorist groups are still in collaboration with ISKP, which is currently their network’s lifeline.

    ISKP has been rapidly losing the ground, facing series of setbacks, weekend networks, and lack of well organized operational capacity to carry out attack on hard targets. ISKP foreign fighters’ countries cannot survive without local support but Afghan tribal groups have been serious about ISKP’s activities threatening their tradition. ISKP strategy, structure and resources are now crumbling.

    This worrisome ISKP phenomenon will continue at least for a short period of time but doesn’t need wide-ranging fear for a longer time. Assessments can be made how this group’s morale has been declining and that it will no longer be capable of carrying out operational measures because of financial crisis, lack of tribal, ethnic and other friendly ties with locals like Taliban and al Qaeda. ISKP will not be able maintain day-to-day operations in future after its collapse at the central level.

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    Challenges of post-conflict solution in Iraq

    November 10th, 2016

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    Islamic State (IS) is doomed to fail in entire Iraq but effective “post-conflict solution” has not been finalized yet. Despite the fact that the Iraqi forces are almost near the ultimate goal to destroy the IS ultra brutal terrorist group, Iraqi political stability is far from reality. Fall of IS in Mosul or elsewhere will not resolve the problems of this disturbed county. Resolving Iraq’s current situation or turmoil requires a comprehensive stabilization plan even after dismantling the IS.

    IS military defeat will not pave the way towards a stable Iraqi future which needs various immediate post-conflict measures. We don’t see any positive scenario yet but the Iraqi future has been surrounded by several complex issues. Post-conflict solution of multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian society will be the major challenges for this hard-hit country. Formation of new local governing bodies, various plans for securing, stabilizing, governing and rebuilding previous IS-held territories are key certain challenges. Lengthy process of the ongoing negotiation indicates further complex disputes over key issues.

    Iraq’s hopeful future will determine only on the basis of broader national political consensus. Forming a new vision for Iraq on the basis of compromise on the part of all domestic political players by discarding all deep rooted rivalries and interests is the only way out to end the conflict. Another tough challenge would be to prevent territorial sovereignty, quick resettlement process for the internally-displaced people, reconstruction of destroyed infrastructures, reconciling with all ethnic groups, reintegrating the fragile multi-ethnic society, settlement of territorial & resources dispute with Kurds, rehabilitation of radicals, restructuring of governing, security & justice system, eliminating the deep rooted corruption, etc.

    Iraq needs to restructure the entire state institutions to prevent another conflict. Iraqi political parties and factions must outline a unified post conflict strategy. Without formulating a new way of governing strategy post-conflict scenario remains unclear. Clear domestic political strategy and future vision is necessary to change the current political and security dynamics. How Iraqi parties will resolve their internal disputes through peaceful means is essential for the country’s stability. Without resolving the disputes comprehensively, making deals with rival parties can encourage revenge attacks.

    Problems in this war-torn country cannot be resolved without examining the current crisis, its root causes and its historic linkage. Almost all Iraqi fundamental factors are surrounded by uncertainties. Internal community can offer stable solution through power separation and decentralization, resources utilization, etc. But these are complex issues. Smart collective initiatives are required to rebuild the ruined towns and services but this too lack funds and resources. There is deep division within the key state propositions like political, ethnical, religious, tribes, historic, geographical, social, economic, security etc. Without appropriately responding to these key issues, further crisis is inevitable.

    Comprehensive priority should be given to post conflict strategy, which is necessary for Iraq’s stability. Ineffective government political reforms initiative is yet to be concluded. Neither the new governing strategy has been finalized.  Dire economic situation is certainly unable to meet the reconstruction efforts without foreign support. The causes of instability is the failure to provide basic services to the people, deep rooted corruption, frustration and mistrust for general Iraqi people. Successful political and effective governing framework can help contribute to rebuild new Iraq. Power-sharing between all rival communities is necessary for post-conflict reconstruction in the previously IS-held territories. All relevant foreign powers need to use their influence to ensure Iraqi national reconciliation.

    Response to potential future crisis requires flexibility and serious discussion among all parties but they are yet to realize the upcoming dangerous crisis. National unity framework comprising all identities and ethnic/tribal groups rather than interests of powerful groups like Shia, Sunni or Kurds should be in place.

    Infrastructure rebuilding plan towards sustainable political and social strategy is necessary for a stable Iraq. There can be no ideal solution for Iraqi crisis but there are several options by re-drawing the Iraqi new map. But these options will lead the regional intervention to multi-ethnic conflict. Growing separatist aspiration with geographical or sectarian/ethnic division will produce new problems in future. Competition for different destiny within Iraqi factors will head to unfortunate circumstances and conflict resulting to unfortunate situation.

    Various interests to control over resourceful areas, maintain rule of law, fundamental services for people, foreign pressure and engagements on internal affairs, functional governing bodies in local areas, reviving the falling of nationalism, various humanitarian package for displaced people are also key challenges. Another key issue is how to resettle the past radical individuals which require long-term broad collective strategy.

    Ideological counter radical program is also an essential factor to counter radical salafi jihadist ideology to avoid another cycle of brutal violence. There are various meddling possibilities from inside and outside. Current wrong decisions will lead towards worsening consequence in the near future. Iraqi situation will remain fragile without consider a realistic option to prevent another tragedy. Future of various fighters’ groups is another risk. Various fighters’ groups poise significant amount of weapons but their position during the post war time remain unclear. New rivalry and infighting within anti-IS groups cannot be ruled out.

    US and other regional countries which have influence over Iraqi parties must put immense pressure on the concerned parties to end internal disputes. U.S. can facilitate for a better political solution of Iraqi future. Without U.S., U.N. and other regional nation’s intense effort cannot resolve Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian tensions. All group’s alliance successful Mosul operation can pave the opportunity towards building new Iraq. Appropriate coordination between all parties could be a new beginning point to prevent another conflict.

    Post Mosul political and social plan must be finalized with clear role and responsibility for all relevant internal parties. Without internal unity among various factions, Iraq will face turmoil in the near future. Iraq must deal with different actors for collective interest of all parties. The mistrust among various groups and parties in Iraq will not help to resolve the crisis. If any negotiation with different factor fails, the current cooperation against IS will collapse. There could be unilateral declaration in different parts of the country – either the Kurdish, Shia or Sunni which would lead another deadly civil war.

    Iraq has numerous needs and demands but has very limited option for the solution.

    Without a clear future vision for new arrangement for “post-conflict solution” there are fears of a new cycle of crisis. Without broad cooperation among all players Iraq’s peaceful future remains uncertain. Temporary and artificial solution will no longer bring stability to the fragile Iraqi state.

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    Does west fail to prevent lone-wolf attacks?

    October 30th, 2016

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    Islamic State’s lone wolf terrorism in west is increasingly becoming trendy. After series of losses in its overall operational capabilities in the central and franchise capture areas, the Islamic State terrorist outfit has encouraged lone-wolf attack against the west. Lone terrorist attack against the west has been Islamic State’s (IS) top priority.

    Recently IS claimed responsibility for the September 17 lone-wolf stabbings in the Minnesota Mall in the United States. They claimed credit for the devastating Orlando nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016, which is so far the biggest and deadliest attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 terrorist attacks. IS also claimed credit for the San Bernardino attack on December 2, 2015. Despite all necessary Counter-Terrorism (CT) measures effective to thwart dozens of coordinated terrorist attacks, the U.S and EU security forces failed to prevent Lone-Wolf terrorist attacks.

    The U.S has not only been a victim of IS-inspired lone-wolf attacks, even Europe has faced worst terrorist attacks ever. Wave of attacks against France (Paris & Nice), Germany (Wuerzburg & Ansbach), and attack on police officers in Belgium’s Charleroi proves that it is not easy to thwart the lone-wolf terrorist attacks. IS senior leaders have continued to urge its followers to carry out attacks against the West. Its propaganda machine intensifies its effort to encourage radical environments and instructs its followers to inspire lone wolf attacks. IS has relied on lone wolf attacks to ‘take revenge’ against the West.

    Combating today’s terrorism is very complex. Western security forces have been facing new invisible terrorism phenomena. Terrorism threat – growing from online radicalization – poses threats from lone -wolf. Counter terrorism (CT) officials face difficult tasks to uncover new lone terrorist plots. Spread of violence inspirational propaganda content on the Internet and group leaders’ message on an instruction sources to lone-wolf attackers. Loners terror operatives cannot be an under the routine counter terrorism radar. Detection of such self-radicalized alone operatives have been a challenge for CT forces.

    Islamic State has more of a silk propaganda than al-Qaeda and its slain leader Anwar al-Awlaki who were been a headache for the U.S. CT agencies in 2000s. IS has been accelerating the same ideas but in a more organized and effective manner. IS propaganda machine picked number of propagandists and several forms of attractive propaganda operations, which regularly inspire terrorist attacks against the West. Dozens of IS propagandists and large part of propaganda media outlets have taken off by U.S. but there are still dozens of al-Awalaki which is necessary to be immediately removed from the propaganda battlefield.

    This trend is likely to increase after it defeats the ground and transforms its organization to decentralized forms. Despite different circumstances, lone-wolf terrorist individual’s path to radicalization, motivation, ideological mind, inspire or overall attack patterns appears the very same. Dealing of IS instructed lone-wolf terrorist attack against west is becoming a major challenge for the CT forces. But western CT forces have remained focused on large scale coordinated attacks plotted by the central level of the terrorist group. Question remains: Can’t the security forces do anything do prevent lone-wolf attacks?

    How can we stop this deadliest phenomenon?

    There is no role model to counter lone–wolf terrorism. CT strategies have been still searching possible ways of prevent such future attacks. Prevention of lone attacks is certainly very difficult but not impossible. Effective mass-base counter terrorism measures could reduce such horrific tragedies. Unpredictable lone-wolf attacks cannot prevent without stopping terrorists online contents and aggressive mass base ideological battle.

    CT forces must focus on grassroots of radicalization. Online realization is still vulnerable and without eradicating this risk, counter terrorism agencies cannot prevent further lone-wolf terrorist attacks. Different security and social approaches could be effective to counter jihadist mindset. Effective de-radicalization/rehabilitation program along with social-religious components is required to counter lone-wolf threats. This growing nightmare will not cease only with the efforts of counterterrorism agencies or security forces. It requires mass public support and collective efforts.

    24/7 surveillance on terrorist suspects in the Western world is becoming complex owing to the rapid increase in the number of suspects’ list. Inside information on terror suspects to law enforcement authority is necessary to prevent lone wolf attacks. Introduction of flexible and loose network could help gather wide variety of information through suspects’ family members, relatives, friends, neighbors, community figures, teachers, and medical to social service, etc. Such support from general public requires full informers’ protect system in a fully informal way to avoid the person from facing further questioning by security or judiciaries.

    Electronic communication tracking system only cannot effective to thwart the lone wolf attack but public support from various sectors is a must. Any CT measures should not be hampered to the principles of liberal democratic society. Small public information has led to thwart of a number of terrorist plots. Suspects might change their way of thinking and their daily life. They might seek help from different actors to acquire more lethal weapons and explosives, might survey of locations or change their behaviors. Large number of suspects’ personal surveillance cannot be done by small counter terrorism units everywhere; neither gain individual changing way of violence thinking. Western counter-terrorism agencies still focus on preventing large-scale coordinate terrorist attacks rather than individual-based approach.

    Detecting and disrupting an individual’s plan is not easy task without public help. Preventing logistic preparation of suspects and cut off access of weapons to radicalized angry men is necessary to prevent similar types of future attacks. Wide range of suspects tracking mechanism is necessary considering the growing nexus between the terrorist networks and criminal gangs. Some criminals – turned into terrorist ideology and carried out lone-wolf attacks also suggests further vigilance from multi-dimensional ways. Such patterns require restructuring of traditional criminal record system in the West.

    Despite counter-terrorism officials’ close attention on possible IS plots against the West, the terrorist networks have been using organized criminal gangs to obtain its logistics and human infliction through trafficking or other travel methods. Without preventing such types of suspects, entering the West could be very lethal in near future. EU must outline possible responses to such trained radicals to prevent further lone-wolf attacks. Clues of such long trained lone suicide perpetrator are almost not possible to acquire but can gain information from direct ground source and terrorist group propaganda outlets.

    Social media organizations require to keeping a new active mechanization to immediately remove the terrorists content in their platforms. Systematically endorsing modern de-radicalization program to prevent home-grown terrorists should be the priority. Launch on aggressive anti-extremist propaganda online campaign is also necessary to combat terrorist violence. Better security is more important than personal liberties but it does not mean all individual will sacrifice their privacy. Security forces have key responsibilities to protection of civil liberties and civilians too have equal duty to support counter terrorism efforts.

    Success of counter-terrorism is in fact difficult as perceived. It does not have a quick-fix ready-made solution. Counter-terrorism efforts have several limits in changing the nature of terror groups, its trans-boundary characteristics, deadly tactics and unfolding turmoil situation on the ground. Only military components or measures cannot defeat terrorism. It requires different strategies and ideas.

    IS is still encouraging attacks against world and circulation of instructions which appears on online on a daily basis. In fact, Muslim religious leaders must initiate a campaign against terrorism propaganda. Muslim leaders, imams, scholars, media, teachers and activists need to start responding against terrorist manipulation on religion. Diverse Muslim communities can start ideological battles against terrorist groups with a broader counter extremism concept. Without broader ideologically driven response against radical inspire, Lone-Wolf attack will continue even if they lose their core operational capabilities.

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    Assessing the much-anticipated Mosul battle against Islamic State

    October 26th, 2016

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    After series of victories against Islamic State (IS) in Ramadi, Fallujah, Shirqat and beyond, Iraqi security forces have intensified the most complex operation to retake IS-held Mosul. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally announced the offensive to retake Mosul from IS on October 17.

    Despite slow maneuver on the IS’s last stronghold Mosul, the initial battle has been progressing according to the plan. Many IS-occupied areas have been liberated in the outskirts of the city as local forces approaching Mosul from the southern and eastern side. Initial offensive against IS has remained highly tactical with intense focus on assessing IS battle tactics, strategy, resistance ability rather than focusing on quick ground gains.  

    Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul has been Iraqi symbol of self-proclaimed caliphate since June 2014. IS announced a “Caliphate” from Mosul with its group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi self-proclaiming “the caliph” (leader for Muslims everywhere) after erasing Syria-Iraq boarders. Since then Mosul city has been their centre of ambition where they plan to break regional borders to set their ultimate aim to capture the globe.

    Despite inevitably heading to be defeated in Mosul, their counter-attack in Kirkuk, Rutbah and suicide campaigns against Iraqi forces shows their remaining terrorist destruction capabilities. Fall of Mosul did not only paved the way for IS for a sweeping seizure of other strategic Iraqi cities but committed shocking barbarism and brutality including mass executions of civilians, killing, crucifixions, torture etc. Ultra-brutal terrorist group quest for reign of terror and fear in the captured territories of Iraq has back-fired with gradual retaliation of anti-IS forces under U.S. support.  

    Various inclusive forces, including Iraqi National Army, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Sunni tribal fighters, Shia-led Hashd Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Unit), Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen etc are taking part against IS in Mosul. However, they will not enter the Mosul city but organize themselves just outside the core area. This operation plan shows the government’s seriousness to prevent possible sectarian conflict.

    In Mosul, IS will not able to reinforce its fighters anymore. Reasons are many that include they have gradually lost their morale to fight. Most importantly, shortage of fighters and weapons will definitely lead to retreat and defeat in Mosul. With limited resources, IS fighters will have to give up ultimately. Iraqi forces are prepared to overcome for every obstacle with the coordination of intelligence agency that makes them easy to hit IS key targets, fortifications and hideouts. Iraqi forces’ logistics, maintenance, advise, and other necessary resources and preparation show that there will not be military setback in Mosul. The defeat is certain.

    Intensive US-led air campaign and use of others heavy weaponry will break the IS key defensive lines. IS will not be able to boost its militants’ motivation on the ground because of lack of significant supply and reinforcement routes, Acute shortage of logistics, lack of decisive counter attack power will lead to extensive internal pressure and possibility of defection within the fighters. Crumbling IS Iraq’s stronghold Mosul has been cut off from all Iraqi sides but various Iraqi factions have managed significant reinforcement on the frontline.

    Ground circumstance is not favorable for IS. It has been deteriorating its military capabilities after series of losses on the ground in Iraq and Syria. IS still faces multi-front battle in Syria even its so-called capital Raqqa is under enemy range of attack anytime. Turkish-backed free Syrian rebels has continued rapid gains against IS in border areas. IS has not only suffered significant loss in multiple grounds in Syria but also effetely lost its supply lines from Turkey. Recently IS has lost grip on symbolic Syrian city of Dabiq, 10km (6 miles) from the Turkey border, where their propaganda outlets promised a decisive final battle against its enemies.

    IS will take all measures to slow down the advancement of Iraqi forces and will try to check them entering the city but their effort will not block the momentum of Iraqi forces. ISIS will certainly be defeated. However, what cannot be ignored is their thought resistance from its hopeless militants. They could engage bloody fight and rely on suicide attacks. They have already started unprecedented suicide bombings and other means of terrorist attacks. But the Iraqi forces are accustomed to most of the IS tactics since the bloody battle began two years back. ISIS fighters have no option than either to surrender, flee or get killed. Hand to hand combat, house-to-house searches and other unconventional warfare could take more time.

    A bloody warfare is expected but since IS has enormously weakened they cannot hold the city for a longer period of time. Clearance operations will be the most difficult task but it depends on intelligence. Mosul’s warfare scenario depends on how Intelligence closely watches over the group inside the city. If there is lack of extensive intelligence network inside Mosul further operation will be dangerous. The group’s influence over Mosul will certainly deteriorate but it all depends how much the Iraqi detective intelligence demonstrates their capability.

    Brutal suppression of people’s reaction will be another vital aspect of operation. We cannot easy assess the Mosul battle without seeing it. Series of revolts and resistance against IS can be intelligence-backed and if these uprising will be able to form an organized Sunni resistance network within the IS-held Mosul, liberation of this city will be much sooner than expected.  

    U.S-led coalition has no direct combat role but has deployed various compositions to support the ongoing offensive, including training, advising, coordinating, and intelligence-gathering, among others. But U.S special forces are prepared to fight side-by-side with the Iraqi and Kurds forces if necessary. U.S. ground military operation in Mosul has not got any formal request from the Iraqi side but they have already targeted numerous direct ground raids against IS. Such direct military actions doesn’t hold public acknowledgement but eliminate dangerous terrorist threats and core leaders.

    IS has no direct warfare capabilities but is using unconventional terrorism tactics. They have already started suicide campaign, infiltration targeted assassination, use of violence against public in government held cities, intimidation, running underground terrorist networks, booby traps, mining etc. Major concern of the operation is the safety of the civilians who are trapped under harsh terrorist control and are used as human shields, use civilian places as weapons storage and command centers, potential risk of use crude chemical materials against security forces and other means to disturb the operation.

    Just a matter of several weeks IS will be certainly defeated in Mosul but they still have the thoughts to win back the city. Fall of Mosul means not only to lose the key front but to lose the entire battle psychologically for this declining terrorist group. Possibilities are that the IS can flee towards Syria’s strongholds and regroup to escalate further terrorist campaign. Even if the IS loses the battle of Mosul, they can still preserve terrorist capabilities. Without completely dismantling the IS in Syria, they will pose security threats in Iraqi. In short term, future IS foreign franchises could lunch few revenge attacks to show its existence and their terror ability which IS senior leadership has already directed its global followers.

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    How powerful is Islamic State’s ‘United Cyber Caliphate’?

    September 29th, 2016

     

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

     

    The dramatic rise of Islamic State ultra-extremist group since June 2014 in Iraq and Syria has not only posed threat on physical terrorism threat but has also created critical threat on cyber arena. IS does not use routine terrorist tactics and has proved that it uses cyber space for its terrorist activities tools for global reach. Shortly after self-declaration of ‘Caliphate’ in June 2014, IS formed an online hacker wing called ‘Cyber Caliphate’ currently renamed as ‘United Cyber Caliphate’. Since then, virtual ‘Caliphate’ has been a very effective arm for their overall terrorist operations. Strategic utilization of cyber and social media platforms has revolutionized the IS’ global terrorism in a short span of time.   

    Initially, Islamic State’s ability in cyberspace, in fact, was completely underestimated or ignored by the West. IS’s modernized its terrorism phenomenon through cyber space. IS tactfully utilized the technology and social media tools for formidable inspirational terrorist organization. Cyber-jihad has become the most strategic valuable tool for IS global terrorist operations. IS successfully launched new battle through cyber space that virtually reached everywhere in the world in very short period of time. Cyber propaganda on information era has changed the balance of power within no time. The skillfully growing use of cyber space has been reshaping the virtual imagination into real danger.

    IS has used extensive cyber recruitment strategy, super fast communication skills, glossy propaganda, widely disseminating of propaganda advertising thus paving the way to horrific rise of IS in cyberspace. During a very short period of time, IS has been able to successfully gain its propaganda strength in real terms. They have been able to manipulate the minds of youth across the globe. They have been able to develop their own version of encryption communication software as well as data manipulation. They succeeded to induce thousands of foreign fighters, thousands of social media followers to radicalization and sympathizer attacks.

    Cyber Caliphate’s has claimed credit for powerful cyber attacks and hacking such as hacking on U.S. army’s central command Twitter feed, France’s TV5Monde, British BBC, UAE’s Al-Ittihad daily, MBC Arabic TV Twitter account, educational organizations, transportation systems, NGO’s, commercial among other various websites and social media accounts. Widespread exploitation of cyber vulnerabilities, distributing private data of security personnel, bank accounts, credit card accounts and individual details. But these attacks actually proved false-flag operations, outsourcing, to manipulations of data. IS offensive on cyber space attracted global attention, however, the international community failed to take meaningful counter action against them.

    Overwhelmingly young people accessed social media and growing reliance on cyberspace throughout the world has helped to transforming the traditional threat which IS succeeded to manipulate with new techniques. No terrorist group has ever used modern cyber tools for global scale terrorism campaign. Sophisticated and strategic use of cyber technologies was led by British hacker Junaid Hussain with collaboration with other like-minded cyber terrorists and some of the loosely associated global hacker networks.

    IS lessons have been learnt from 2011 Arab Spring which effectively utilized the social media platforms to spreading the ideas and organizing revolutions for repressive regime change. Popular uprising in the Arab world changed the violence to extremism and terrorism eventually leading into civil war, long term political upheaval paving the way towards opening security vacuum in the region. IS was limited to independent cyber capabilities and outsourcing ability in its initial phase. They focused on sympathetic attacks, exploiting on soft target, penetrating on cyber vulnerabilities. Most of the IS hacking success were related to exploiting vulnerable website rather than skilled hacked.

    Civil war in various nations in the Arab World created opportunity for IS not only in the ground, including securing weapons, funding, managing fighters but also feeding technological skills. IS launched ground war and cyber war simultaneously with the extensive use of social media. Arab Spring in 2011 significantly shifted the traditional revolution landscape into online-based medium against oppressive regimes in Middle East.

    Despite all IS activities on cyber surveillance radar, Western security forces hesitated to initiate rapid cyber countermeasures against IS online presence over certain legal and liberal principles. Even before IS online march, U.S. social media companies had no effective restrictions of extremist content measures structures. Such very lengthy content and social media accounts removing policy created the opportunity for IS online extremism. Delayed action proved to be very serious mistake which infiltrated into the minds of western youth that eventually led the expansion of terrorist capabilities and series of attacks against Western countries.

    The killing of IS’ cyber master mind Junaid Hussain known as Abu Hussain al-Britani by drone strike on August 2015 in Raqqa and second most prominent hacker Siful Haque Sujan AKA Abu Khalid al-Bengali (from Bangladesh) in December 2015 in Raqqa by US forces was a significant blow to IS cyber wing. U.S. targeted killings of IS second-in-command and spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani on August 2016 in Aleppo was another devastating consequence for IS propaganda operation. Killing of such experienced and influential propagandist and cyber terrorists has significantly decreased the IS propaganda campaign and cyber ability.   

    The U.S. counterterrorism officials believed foreign false-flag operators or hackers could be aiding the IS for sensitive military and government employee data. Eventually cyber operation traced the real source of hacking on sensitive documents and sent to IS from Malaysia. It was immediately verified including the accurate nexus, location and evidence of source Yong Kosovo citizen Ardit Ferizi who was arrested in Malaysia on September, 2015. Ferizi entered Malaysia in August 2014 to study computer science in Kuala Lumpur. The in-depth isolated investigations by U.S. counterterrorism specialist proved his involvement and recently court convicted him to 20 years in prison in U.S.

    Despite losing the cyber battle, IS cyber has united by rebranding its name on March 2016 after 4 Pro- IS Cyber units known as ‘Cyber Caliphate Army’, ‘Sons Caliphate Army’, ‘Ghost Caliphate Section’ & ‘Kalachnikv E-security team’ and merged with new name ‘United Cyber Caliphate’ (UCC). After rebranding its name, UCC launched series of high profile propaganda to announce big hacking plans including plans to hack tech giant Google. But eventually doomed failed.

    U.S. cyber response has changed the equation in cyber space since 2016. After series of covert act against IS cyber and propaganda capabilities, U.S. Cyber Command officially declared cyber-war on the Islamic State on April 2016. IS faced the most devastating consequences on cyberspace after U.S. launched aggressive all-out efforts to destroy IS digital capabilities. New approach including swift removal of IS linked social media accounts and quick crackdown on extremists’ contents in online has been a big success in recent days. What we can judge is that IS cyber front will completely collapse in the very near future.

    Now-a-days IS has been mostly using open source methods without advanced computer knowledge. Cyber campaign has been IS terror group’s key strategy but does not yet have an independent operational ability. Delay of all-out efforts against IS in digital front will pave the way for IS’s long-term presence in cyberspace. But now, U.S. has been able to effectively curb IS influence of self-styled Caliphate on online.

    IS’s entire cyber cell now depends on open source privacy manuals to hide U.S. intense electronic surveillance on suspects. U.S. has killed prominent hackers by precision drone strikes. IS has no existing capabilities to offensive attacks in cyberspace but group’s organized propaganda activities on online has continued. IS has no ability on sophisticated cyber-attack against critical infrastructures but still poses powerful propaganda threat.

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    Prioritizing actions against growing IS cyber-terrorism threat

    September 21st, 2016

    By Pramod Sedhain.

    Prioritizing actions against growing IS cyber-terrorism threat

    Global terrorism dimensions are rapidly changing. International terrorist networks and their affiliates are growing tech-savvy. Terrorist groups have transformed their organizations from illiterate rural-based small militant groups to modern high-tech operational capabilities. Cyber space is becoming a key instrument of jihadists in their recruitment radicalization. Modern technological tools are now a key back bone of various global terrorist networks. Terrorist groups have been skillfully using modern tools to manipulate religion belief, exaggeration of terrorist causes, information gathering, inspiring, and networking aimed at cyber attacks.

    Islamic State’s (IS) emergence from Iraq and Syria has not only changed the dynamics of terrorism phenomenon but has also reversed overall terrorism concept. Scenario of cyber terrorism is in an alarming level since the dramatic rise of Islamic State in the summer of 2014. IS has been increasingly using technological tools to unconventional warfare by completely changing contemporary terrorism dimensions. IS has significantly increased its attractive propaganda skills, improved cyber expertise & strengthened cyber attack power, which has posed a serious global security threat.

    IS has justified the use of technology as a powerful weapon. It’s cyber terrorist cells located in unidentified locations target wherever they want to. Thousands of IS sympathizers have been using social media and even utilize online platforms to spread propaganda, violence, threat, recruitment, extortion for terrorism. IS’s high-quality propaganda and production capabilities have been successful to spreading its network beyond their captured areas. IS intense use of online has not been limited to glossy propaganda works but has been aimed at initiating cyber attacks in various parts of the world through its hackers and sympathizers.

    Interestingly, IS has a Hollywood-style silk production capabilities. Such sophisticated techniques have never been used by other terrorist groups. Neither any other terrorist group has such a skill of multimedia production, systematic distribution of propaganda materials, high tech digital distribution mechanisms like different social medias, encryption tools, apps etc. IS has demonstrated its ability in standard video production in terms of technical aspects – appropriate cinematography, direction, editing, lighting, VFX, sounds, motion, graphics, narration, etc. It has been carefully following the standard principles of production. Such variety of production suggests their ability of trained propaganda media team along with expensive equipment.

    The growing cyber oriented modern terrorist trend of the IS has posed serious and multi-dimensional threats across the globe. IS has been using cyber space for interactive tools for its group to spread violence across the globe. IS supporters’ hacking units have formed a single umbrella group known as United Cyber Caliphate (UCC) whose aim is to collectively target cyberspace in the world.

    IS has different varieties of sophisticated media outlets, websites and social media accounts with multi-language environment and attractive superfast propaganda speed. Their advanced communication skill has been systematic marching on cyber space impacting several people across the globe. IS has been operating dozens of propaganda websites while its supporters have been running thousands of social media accounts. Likewise, IS central has been directly running different variety of media production, including news, views, documents, visuals, films, pictures, graphics in various languages to target different audiences.

    Similarly, IS central has been running dozens of websites and media outlets, including radio, video, multimedia, online to hardcopy medium notably al-Hayat Media, al-Furqan Media, al-I’tisam Media, Ajnad Media, Amaq News Agency, al-Bayan Radio, al-Naba weekly newspaper & Dabiq propaganda magazine. Almost all IS self-declared Wilayat (provinces), cities and regions have been operating their own media outlets to disseminate their propaganda messages. Such large scale media operations prove that IS’s technical capability and global threats. Without preventing these propaganda machines, others counter terrorism efforts cannot stop IS global recruitment and sympathizers attacks.

    Thousands of IS supports in social media ‘justify’ their violence in daily basis aimed at intimidating civilians. Cyber space has become a meeting point for the group’s communications, coordination, command and control. Terrorist groups are not only able to brainwash remote areas poor, young, illiterate and teens but also has been able to recruit educated youth from western capitals. Technical youth can serve the group’s clandestine cells even if they do not reach the terrorist group’s controlled areas. IS has been frequently calling their followers worldwide to attack against their home countries if they cannot reach Iraq and Syria. IS seems to be determined to carry out wolf attacks in outside worlds by spreading its silk-inspired online propaganda message to its sympathizers.

    Remotely conducted cyber terrorism has posed considerable psychological, financial or ideological threats to the globe. Terrorist groups can start their acts through cheaper and easier means without their physical presence. Anonymity and easy access give them leverage to electronic espionage, information warfare, planning, offering quick command & control in attacking behind the front lines. IS digital camping has also been successful to attract high level media coverage & maximize their terror across the globe. Modest terrorist groups do not need to have direct links with the recruiters. They are not using Madrassas to brainwash children for recruitment but has been able to use cyber space to attract the youth.

    The 21st century digital revolution and smart technological inventions have changed our daily lives. The terrorists’ penetration into the cyberspace has posed enormous threat in the growing globalized world. Despite all extensive reliance on cyber technologies, its vulnerabilities still exist and the terrorist groups want to exploit these in any way they can. Security forces have technical limitations to identify the persons or groups, which could have potential link-up with global terror network through cyber space but terrorists can effectively spread their violence ideas through cyberspace without spending much effort, money and manpower.

    The increasing global connectivity through technology is difficult to detect by law enforcement agencies. New types of advanced encryption tools, hidden software, VPNs base internet traffic bypass systems, private browsing, encrypted communication devices, peer-to-peer technologies have been preserving anonymity for online users. Terrorist groups have gained these technological advances for global presence but such tools prevent security network surveillance capabilities and difficulties to detect online terrorists. Different types of technological breakthroughs show limited effectiveness of traditional human counterterrorism measures which requires transformation of full-fledged modern technology oriented counter-terrorism forces. Security forces need to evaluate the current effectiveness of counter terrorism operations to deal modest terrorists threat.

    Counter terrorism approach must focus on counter cyber-terrorism mechanisms to safeguard potential cyber threat. Without effective combat on cyber-terrorism, we cannot prevent terrorist networks from spreading globally. Potential cyber terrorism threat is growing and terrorist groups might pose power to digital attacks or electronic raid in different countries. Terrorist groups do not yet have independent capabilities to destruct critical infrastructure but they might try to expand their cyber warfare capabilities in any way they can. On the backdrop of looming cyber-terrorism threat, new sophisticated security measures need to rapidly speed up reaction to emerging virtual threats.

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    Is Islamic State’s Worst Nightmare Comes True?

    August 31st, 2016

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

     

    Islamic State’s self-proclaimed Caliphate is in crumbling stage. After series of shrink its capabilities in two-year battles, Islamic State (IS) is now heading on the path to ‘key defeat’. IS has suffered series of setbacks in its core areas in Iraq and Syria. The group is gradually losing its territories as well as facing worsening problems from multiple dimensions. Advancement of foreign-backed forces shows the rapidly shifted momentum on the ground. IS is also gradually losing battles in both Syria and Iraq and currently is facing a vulnerable condition from almost all battles. Key IS’s leaders continue killed in air strikes, namely chief spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, second-in-command Abu Ali al-Anbari, war minister Abu Omar al-Shishani, among others key figures. Declining IS military power will see deterioration of its capabilities and will no longer be able to advance, and is not capable of being defensive in its control areas for a longer period.

    IS faces immense pressure from all directions in Syria & Iraq even in its control core areas. The U.S.-led coalition estimates IS has lost more than 45 percent of captured territory in Iraq & 20 percent in Syria in the last two years. Turkey launched new wider offensive “Operation Euphrates Shield” in Syria alongside Syrian rebels against IS. Turkish-led forces gain the ground from IS in border region. Despite deep differences with Turkey U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which is a collective force of Arab, Assyrian, Kurdish and Turkmen captured significant parts of northern Syria & has now captured the Manbij city from the hands of the ISIS. Other local fighters captured the key IS sully route to Turkey. IS also faces separate assault from different rival groups in Syria. Russia-backed Syrian army recaptured the historic city of Palmyra & Al-Qaryatain in central Homs province as well Aleppo to Hama.

    IS lost most of its captured areas in Iraq notably Fallujah, Tikrit, Ramadi, Beiji, Sinjar as well other different cities in northern Iraq. Iraqi forces and Peshmerge forces has been advancing toward IS strongholds. We can predict strategic IS losses in the coming months in both Iraq & Syria but still require more patience for the final outcome. The group will face growing hard military pressure which will no long sustain such large scale air raids and ground attacks. But IS still poses a significant counter-offensive capability.

    Long-anticipated battle to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa & Iraqi city of Mosul from IS likely anytime soon. Preparations for an offensive for Raqqa & Mosul are on hold because of disputes between different actors. Operation to liberate Raqqa is also on hold owing to different operational vision between U.S. & Russia as well as tensions between Kurds, Arabs, Rebels, pro & anti government actors as well regional powers. Similarly, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have tightened the noose on the groups’ Iraqi stronghold Mosul. Iraqi forces and allied fighter groups are already deployed in the northern Nineveh to prepare for first phase of Mosul offensive. Each Iraqi anti- IS factors have sought bigger role in upcoming operation either national military, Shia fighters, Kurdish Peshmerga, Sunni fighters, local tribesmen which U.S. sees such disputes will lead further escalation of violence in city.

    Not only the central but similar loses from all its affiliated groups have been witnessed. Islamic State’s most organized, capable & dangerous affiliation in Libya now faces an incredible pressure from all sides. IS wing’s stronghold of Sirte city has been threatened from various local fighter groups. After U.S. & European direct military support to aiding local forces will be easy to retake local forces in Libya. Backed by U.S. air cover, Western backed local forces are gradually making progress in Sirte against IS . Libyan branch’s ambition to expand its influence in North Africa to Europe has been shattered by Western involvement.

    IS’ approaches in Nigeria aim with vicious terror campaigns across the Sahara faces problems itself. IS’ West Africa branch (Boko Haram) factions have been divided into two groups. After losing series of battles, IS could thought of having possible problem in the leadership and appointed new leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi. The move was rejected by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau who pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Such division suggests IS presence in Africa’s most populous nation might face dire consequences.

    Nigerian and neighboring regional armies Cameroon, Chad, Benin & Niger have successfully driven out IS branches from most of their captured territories & resources. After series of failures of large-scale attacks on security & government targets, they have stepped up attacks on softer targets in remote villages, crowded areas, local markets, and refugee camps which certainly will back fire in their former stronghold. Boko Haram militants now have very limited capacity and IS central rapidly lost of grip will be easy to cut off their direct coordination.

    IS was must optimistic from it Yemeni franchise which aims to create al-Qaeda’s branch Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) type of most capable network. Despite several high-profile attacks in all over Yemen group failed to expand its capabilities.

    Self-declared Islamic State’s Khorasan province in Afghanistan-Pakistan faces increasingly military pressure from Taliban and Afghan government forces. IS affiliated group in Afghan province of Nangarhar is losing the ground. Vicious attacks on hospital in Pakistan’s Quetta & Hazara rally in Kabul shows its ability to carry out deadly and sophisticated attacks. Despite different deadliest attacks, it has not expanded like it had succeeded in its initial phase. IS brutality in Afghan-Pakistan could backfire its expansion which we expect on factionalism & series of defections in near future.

    IS is still operating its branches in Egypt’s Sinai to Somalia to dominate the global terrorism legacy against rival terror network al-Qaeda. IS is also trying to extend its global reach which they already have lost – such as in Algeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Somali, Russia, Uzbekistan, Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh etc. Crumbling IS will not properly handle its global declared Wilayats (provinces) if their central leaders & terrorist defects. IS has intensified their global terror campaign to take revenge on its series of set backs in core areas. IS have preserved certain terrorism capabilities to carry out attacks in different parts of the world.

    Despite all these positive developments against IS counterterrorism, success is vast difficult than simple perceptions or quick-fix ready-made solution. Counterterrorism efforts still have several limits in changing nature of IS terror group, its trans-boundary characteristics, deadly tactics & unfolding turmoil situation on the ground. Only military measure cannot defeat IS it requires favorable political situation with different strategies & ideas.

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    Can World Block Islamic State’s Cyber Terrorism?

    May 29th, 2015

     

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    Can the world block ISIS online terrorism?
    Terrorism phenomenon has rapidly changed after the rise of Islamic State (IS) group from the Middle East. Later, it expanded its notable operational presence in Africa and then to Asia. The IS online propaganda and its growing presence has come out as a threat to the world. Digital counterterrorism effort has remained ineffective while the IS has still been exercising online propaganda march. IS ground operation or high-profile victories can be seen or read, however, what is to be seriously noted is the threat coming from IS-operated invisible virtual cyber world.

    Every day, each hour, IS has been releasing propaganda tools to attract more recruitment from amongst the youths in highly organized and sophisticated form. Be it in terms of quality or quantity, they have the capacity to make their online go viral within minutes as well as the ability to spread every corner of its recruitment target. What is to be noted is that such a strategy was never exercised by any other notorious groups previously. IS systemic digital campaign created digital jihadism in a new form to spread their criminal ideology. Western nations response and engagement of this group has yet not worked properly.

    Here at this point, I am going to show a perfect example why there is a need to counter the risk of the alarmingly growing ISIS capability on cyber terrorism. How every country needs to be aware of possible IS presence either physically or digitally. mnbr.info/vb/  the Islamic State Arabic recruitment sites, which is viewed in Egypt (33.1%), Saudi Arabia (10.6%), Jordan (9.3%) Kuwait (9.1%) & Morocco (5%) etc. This well protected single website has engaged some 3000 radical youths to communicate for IS recruitment.

    Islamic Sate (IS) chose Central American stable & touristic country Costa Rica for the digital bastion. IS digital operative use a house in the heart of the capital city San Jose, Parque Central –Nacional De Nihos Hospital. Costa Rica has no standing army & has a good welfare society. It has almost no counterterrorism radar located there. The authorities even do not suspect that such a premier area can be used by the IS to operate such an activity. Fully hidden and well protected website has been functioning in such an unreliable way by using all technique, tools as well as applying almost all computer and human skill.

    This is just a single example of over 100 websites that are permanently destroyed & over 300 cyber attacks by GhostSec ongoing operation against the Islamic State. The group terminated more than 45,000 social media accounts, which uses recruiters & fund-raisers tools. Several IS digital infrastructure have covered different professional, religious, educational as well as cultural identity.

    Dubbed as powerful and organized, Cyber warfare group GhostSec monitors Pro-IS social media & websites round the clock. The commander & founder Known as DIGITΛSHΛDØW told me, “We will continue attacks against IS sites until its every bit of information or propaganda is eliminated from the internet. We have a long term strategy of cyber war against the group. Notwithstanding the time, our fully dedicated multinational and multi linguistic team are fully equipped & capable to counter the group. We are working 16 hours a day & 7 days a week for the world’s safety.”
    Anonymous, naturally known as loosely organized hackers’ entities but later declared complex cyber war against the Islamic State is campaigning move similar to a military command structure. The campaign structure is tracking, monitoring, assessing, analyzing & carrying out attack system with different diversified & decentralized command structures.

    Twitter has suspended thousands of IS accounts & security agencies have blocked number of terrorism-related online. But the possibilities of coming out with different accounts cannot be ruled out. IS uses different locations for a single mission for their operation. Such a scenario shows that the digital war against this terror group needs to be more organized and coordinated.

    Countering IS propaganda & solid response cannot be achieved without a systematic global digital strategy. All countries need to move ahead with a priority of digital frontier & beef up cyber surveillance. Current digital response against the jihadist group cannot be enough. It needs more aggressive approach to eliminate or check future threat.

     

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    U.S. Accomplishes Humanitarian Mission in Nepal

    May 26th, 2015

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    U.S. Accomplishes Humanitarian Mission in Nepal

    President Barack Obama expressed the commitment to help in the earthquake-devastated Nepal saying, “Our friends need America’s help. We are ready for that…and even greater risk or greater sacrifices”. He said this during a tribute program of 6 Marines & 2 Nepalese soldiers, who lost their lives in a UH-1Y Huey helicopter crash on May 12 relief mission for the earthquake survivors.

    During the tribute program, President Obama praised the effort by the Marine Forces for their commendable jobs on the ground under humanitarian aid effort. US Marine rescued several victims and ferried the injured as well as dropped significant humanitarian supplies in the most affected areas. President Obama renewed commitment for Nepal demonstrating their global leadership capability notwithstanding the location or distance. The devastating earthquake on April 25 hit Nepal claiming thousands of lives and devastating physical infrastructure in Kathmandu and elsewhere.

    Earlier, Secretary of State, John Kerry had announced U.S. support for earthquake response and recovery. The assistance totaled around $47 million, including USAID $32.5 million, Department of Defense $14.3 & U.S. Department of Justice – $1.7 million. The U.S. immediately sent their Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal to assess the relief effort and future recovery needs.

    Furthermore, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, Peter W. Bodde and the Minister spent most of the time on the ground along with the support mission. Ambassador Bodde met with almost all concerned parties, government and security personal to encourage them and expressed U.S. assistance. A senior U.S. Embassy officer in Kathmandu told me, “We used our all-out assistance effort to accomplish primary rescue & relief responsibilities but our priority still is to support post-disaster relief as much as Nepal needs.” He added, “Our aid effort is purely humanitarian not aimed at rivalry or strategic purpose.”

    Well Connected Army

    U.S. Army has a long-standing all-weather relationship with Nepal Army (NA). Since 1965, the U.S. started Military Education and Training Program for NA. Around 600 soldiers have been formally trained. America supported in the NA’s effort during the July 1993 flood disaster in Nepal. Formal defense diplomacy is running normally but their ties extended during the insurgency (1996-2006) period when Nepal faced critical security challenges and U.S. on post 9/11 aggressive war on terror campaign in South Asia. Pacific command had sent a special team to Nepal to assess army’s need as well as combat format structure. They made an overall assessment of the NA and provided special suggestions.

    In January, 2002, Colin Powell paid a visit to Nepal for the first time as a Secretary of State after 54 years of relationship between the two countries. The U.S. showed their support for Nepal Army in the most difficult times in modern history. He went directly to Nepal Army’s headquarters from the airport to discuss support. Nepal Army gave a rare ‘Guard of Honor’ to him despite unpracticed Nepali norms. Powell’s Kathmandu visit came at a time when the Maoist insurgency was at its peak and a state of emergency imposed.

    A retired Bridger General who was in-charge of military intelligence during the insurgency period recalled the past ties with the U.S. military: “When the Maoist guerrillas first attacked on Nepal army barracks in Dang in November 2001, U.S. was the first foreign county which showed immediate concern. The United States Pacific Command was the first foreign force who assured us support to combat operation, even USPACOM immediately started their assessment mission.”

    During the Maoist insurgency, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu had extensive contact with almost top Nepalese Army officials &  the entire topmost security apparatus. After the Maoist killed 2 embassy guards in 2001 and even bombed the American Centre in Kathmandu in 2004, the U.S. considered the Maoists not only as the biggest foreign policy threat but also dragged the American aggressive approach against such groups.

    During the insurgency period, the US suggested formulation of ‘unified command’ structure to fight against Maoist guerrillas by coordinating with all security organs – Nepal Army, Armed Police Force, Nepal Police and National Intelligence department. The effective counter-insurgency operations included training, reforming the command structure, formation of the fast battle unit as well as facilitating to procure modern M16 rifles.

    NA bought 21 thousand modern M16 rifles to replace SLR. A recently retired Brigadier General, who was the defense attaché to coordinate U.S. military support from Washington told me, “Nepal’s issue was a priority in Washington not only to the government or the military and intelligence, equally concerned were the Congress members.”

    Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in November 2006, the U.S. had a very tough and balanced invisible role in Nepal. It supported the NA’s professional integrity, peace & reconciliation. The Embassy in Kathmandu partially removed visa restrictions on the Maoist political leadership but sanctions were in place. The U.S. continuously put pressure on the Maoist leadership to follow the “rule of law and peace process”.

    After the end of Nepal’s monarchy in 2008, the Nepal Army was under intensive pressure. The leadership seemed fragile following Maoist penetration. The NA had high hopes from the U.S. The Maoist emerged as the largest party in the CA elections (2008) & led the coalition government. The U.S. extended flexible and conditional support to the Maoist-led government despite the fact that the Maoists were in the list of terror. U.S. pressure to dissolve the notorious Young Communist League (YCL) and conclusion of the peace process were successful.

    Nepal Army to woo the support due to the Maoist-led government’s continued controversial moves against the institution. U.S. had similar perspective they suspected Maoist – guerilla turn to government power in a hurry to take control of the army chain of command to capture the state power.

    Despite widespread internal and international criticism, in May 3, 2009, the Maoist government removed the Army Chief accusing him of defying its orders. While President reinstated the sacked Army Chief, a new government was formed. The United States supported the move. One retired NA chief confirmed: “U.S. supported us, consulted the situation and expressed the commitment for army integrity during the transition. They also played a constructive role for our institution. So far as I know, they were in extensive touch with the opposition parties during the period.

    Despite the fact that the U.S. focused on peace process and socio-economic dimension after the post insurgency, they carefully maintained smooth relationship with the NA. The U.S. continued to provide aid, assistance and training to the NA. Extensive training, discussion and exchange visits on peace process, civil military relation, leadership related included almost all sphere of the society. In 2009, U.S. started active Disaster Risk Reduction program for NA and Nepal Police. The events include rescue training, awareness & risks reduction.

    Only in September 2012 (after 9 years in the terror list), the U.S. government removed the Maoist from the list of global terrorist groups after their leader expressed the commitment to conclude the peace & reconciliation process. During that time, the Maoist had already accepted the NA proposal by integrating a very few number of their guerrillas in NA. The continued US pressure on the Maoist helped in transforming the former guerillas into political force and later accepting the NA integration proposal.

    The U.S. support for NA has continued in different defense programs especially in the International Military Education Training program as well as Foreign Military Financing program. U.S. Pacific Command’s Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) continues fund training and assistance for Nepal’s peacekeepers. Four years before, the U.S. provided 10 armored Humvees for NA peacekeepers in UNMID in Sudan. Similarly, the U.S. has assisted NA in the disaster relief equipment & training for enhanced disaster response, especially during earthquakes and floods. Likewise, U.S. Defense Institution Reform Initiative program helps in enhancing civilian-military relations and democratic institution’s control over military.

    One NA Major General told me: “US has been a balanced and productive power for Nepal. Its strong presence will serve the Nepalese interest and of course, national security. We need to strength our military relationship with the U.S. This relief support is highly appreciated and will further strength our military relationship. The Nepal Army hopes that the deep contact between the two will remain intact that will help in furthering the bilateral relationship.”

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    How Saudi Lost The Yemen Battle?

    April 17th, 2015

     

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    How Saudi Lost The Yemen Battle?

     

    Since March 26, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition launched aerial attack against Houthi movement in Yemen. Others in the coalition include United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan.

    The airstrikes have had little effect on the battle-hardened Houthis group. The overall strategy seemed inconclusive like the intervention in 2008–2009. The Operation Decisive Storm led to humanitarian catastrophic rather than putting pressure on a political deal or a power-sharing agreement. Almost all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, except Oman, participated but the coalition seems to be confused about their final goal thus fuelling deep division among themselves.

    Saudi Arabia continued loss in the Yemen battle fuelled soured relationship with almost all allies. It also missed Saudi’s decade long strategic alliance to containing the Iranian influence in the region. Now that mistrust among the coalition has begun with the partners not trusting Saudi’s strategy and leadership.

    This is because of Saudi’s lack of significant war strategy and leadership quality. The current time and situation have been more dangerous due to the inexperience of the defense minister’s young age and lack of experience, uneasy relation within GCC collation, unclear goal, lack of anti-Houthi force on the ground, huge & difficult geography, lack of public support for Saudi back fugitive president.

    The world’s largest arms buyer Saudi has spent billions of dollars for military power projection. It has an ultra modern technology but no professional troops to handle ground war strategy. Coalition top brass faces difficult situation to coordinate with the inexperience military leadership.

    Saudi-led coalition’s lack of ground operation force and possible strong support from non-Arab allies Turkey and Pakistan failed since the latter denied the request to join the coalition.

    Saudi had high hopes from its key strategic non-Arab ally Pakistan, but the parliament voted unanimously rejecting the proposal to deploy troop and supply military hardware. Pakistan’s, the biggest and only nuclear power militaries in the Muslim world, refusal to the request was a heavy blow to Saudi.

    Pakistan’s rejection has a significant historic meaning at a time when thousands of Pakistani soldiers are stationed in Saudi Arabia. The most pro-Saudi oriented leadership’s request has come as a surprise to many. Pakistani pilot flew Saudi flagcare warplanes against Yemeni incursion in 1969, supported troops for Saudi in Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) as well as mobilized troops to protect Saudi in 1990 after Iraq’s invasion over Kuwait.

    Turkey’s rejection has been a similar blow to Saudi strategy. Ankara has its own geo-political calculation and is furious with Saudi after its ally staged a coup plot in Egypt. The second-largest NATO standing force Turkey does not want weak Saudi to lead the operation.

    Jordan and Egypt remained the last ground force option but they did not prove to be effective. These two Arab countries have functioning ground combat capacity. Egypt, the only powerful function ground force has remained Saudi’s last option but the decision is not easy. How military top brass really want to be unnecessary dragged into the Saudi-interested conflict in Yemen is still unclear but high hopes to GCC of benefiting billion of dollars investment. Egypt faces series of high profile militant attacks in Sinai and faces growing home grown extremism.

    Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is increasingly under pressure because of past painful memories in Yemen. Egyptian troops had humiliating defect in 1960s and lost more than 22 thousand. In this case, casualty might take President Sisi’s political carrier to a tragic end. Egypt has no democratic institution to approve and the country’s military establishment is the key decision maker and breaker. The result of ground invasion in Yemen is unclear.

    In case of loss in Yemen conflict, Egypt’s military top will lose President Sisi’s trust and such a dangerous loss might weaken his popular power base and that would be the biggest threat in his career. Such uneasy circumstances might also see the fear of possible rise of Brotherhood in Yemen, who brutally suppressed at home despite western criticism. But Qatar and Turkey want Brotherhood to win the Yemen power struggle. In other hand, Sisi has made a good personal link with Russian president Vladimir Putin and don’t want to fully anger.

    Another Saudi’s last hope for ground operation in Yemen is Jordan – the only remaining military in the Arab world. But relations with Saudi Arabia are strained because of its engagement to open new diplomatic chapter with Iran. Relations between Saudi and UAE are getting sour with Emirates not wanting to hold the responsibility in the costly Yemen war. Saudi’s relation with Qatar is just formal. Bahrain faces increasing crisis inside home .

    The mission’s failure will certainly have an influence with the U.S’s directly non engagement and reservation. The U.S. can lead the campaign if necessary but it started limited support with unclear strategy for its largest arm buyer and key regional ally Saudi. The U.S. sees Yemen conflict would benefit the world’s dangerous al-Qaida network, which might take a chance.

    The U.S. has special counter terrorism soldiers and special CIA operatives in Yemen to counter and track the most notorious al-Qaeda affiliate calls as well drone strikes. After the evacuation, they will see the biggest setback to fight against terrorism. The U.S still maintains its intelligence network and keeps track on the AQAP rapid move and wants political solution with Houthi for stability.

    Saudi-led coalition aerial bombardment has been successful only to destroy air/ground located bases but has failed to achieve the target on command centers, supply lines, mobile units, etc. Foreign attacks could gain popular support for Houthis as the nation defenders, sovereignty protector and such situation might bolster opportunities to the Houthis to establish as a single force inside the country.

    How this now have been the most strong ever. They already faced six rounds of conflict with Saudi and it’s proxy. They survived with government forces after 2004, even repelled a Saudi military incursion in 2009. Houthi movement had gained popularity after Arab Spring revolutions and resigning of Yemen’s long-serving ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Houthis’ movement has been decisive after it gained major military units support . former President Saleh also support the movement, who denies of having any ambition to return to power.

    The country’s fugitive president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is the root of the current crisis . He failed to properly handle the country with weak political control, failed to gain trust of military institution, and containing terrorism and corruption in the country. Therefore, weak Riyadh’s staunch ally has lost the moral ground to handle the complex ground. Without mutual constructive understanding between Riyadh and Tehran, the situation in Yemen crisis will definitely worsen.

     

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    Will Obama’s diplomacy succeed?

    April 15th, 2015

     

    Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    Despite the increasingly internal uneasy standoff and international chaotic situation, U.S. President Barack Obama extended a pragmatic diplomatic approach with the former arch enemies – Iran & Cuba. Diplomatic engagement with Iran and Cuba has been the biggest display of his administration diplomacy in the six years of office.  Such move would, most significantly shift America’s foreign policy towards its former foes. Obama’s soft line had faced increasing domestic pressure for his undeceive stand on Yemen conflict, Syria’s civil war, Ukraine’s crisis or even to  China’s growing influence.

    Obama’s open-hand diplomacy is sure to avoid the widening conflict and military engagement gaining international support. However, the engagements in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Libyan situation showed a difficult diplomatic thump strategy. If Obama’s diplomatic engagement with Iran and Cuba fails, it would be the most risky step. However, his success this time would be the biggest opportunity and achievement of his presidency. Many hope that Obama’s new policy would not fail like his openness to talks on North Korean nuclear program and initiation of sustainable peace agreement between Israelis and the Palestinians. Any probability of failure in his diplomatic dynamics with Iran and Cuba will prove to be one of the biggest gamble for him that might even damage his political carrier.

    Obama broke former U.S Presidents and Washington’s hard-line policy by starting a new era to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. Changing the policy of more than five decades, President Obama held face-to-face talks with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro in Panama City during the historic 35-nation Summit of the Americas unprecedented meeting between United States and Cuba.

    The Communists gained power from the 1959 revolution that immediately fuelled hostile relation with the U.S. The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and placed an official embargo against the country in 1962. Obama announced to normalize relations with Cuba on December 17, 2014. Since then, negotiators from both sides held intensive discussions over their future move and potential areas of cooperation.

    Obama’s another key priority is to end uneasy relations with its arch enemy Iran that would pave thew way for an easy settlement of Iran’s nuclear program. Major world powers and Iran (P5+1) have been preparing for final stages of agreement. After marathon talks among the six major powers earlier in April, an interim nuclear deal with Iran has been achieved. Complex intensive negotiations are still going on for a comprehensive deal with Tehran in exchange for phased sanction relief.  Iran wants final agreement result with an immediate end to all sanctions. However, the U.S. wants it to happen gradually.

    Obama directly spoke over telephone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to icebreak since the Iran Revolution of 1979 overthrew pro-US monarchs regime. The September 2013 historic 15-minutes constructive phone talks started the optimism for both sides to settle their problems through diplomatic path rather than war. Obama’s move to normalize Washington’s relations with Tehran is a major U.S. diplomatic reapproachment since President Richard Nixon’s China visit in 1972 & had established diplomatic relations.

    Establishment of Washington’s diplomatic ties with Tehrain would help for a stable Middle East to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Currently, both the sides have backed rival power factor throughout the Middle East & several proxy battles taking places. Obama has very few options if such initiations fail. Military action over Iran’s nuclear facility will certainly be the start of a costly and bloody war. Tough new sanctions might be the option but it would not be easy because of obstacles to implement because of China’s rising economic might and western cold war era frozen relations with Russia. In Cuba, Russia and China will take chance for U.S. Hemisphere.

    Obama faces huge challenge during his presidency in case his negotiation strategy fails. This will certainly have a long term impact on U.S. foreign policy. What John F. Kennedy said, “Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.” Despite obstacles, Obama administration is fully concentrated to achieve the result. Diplomatic settlement with Iran and Cuba will certainly bring new foreign policy. It will not only bring about fame to Obama, but will equally pave the future course of U.S. diplomacy.

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    Opportunity of Iran’s nuclear deal

    March 20th, 2015

     

    By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

     

    Despite deep differences over Tehran’s nuclear program, the six international power nations have come closer than never before. The P5+1 nations (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany, plus Iran) have settled some of the significant issues but differences on some issues still remain. Both sides are keen on finalizing the 12-year standoff over the Iran’s nuclear program. Two deadlines to strike a deal have already been missed and broader negotiation deadline draws closer. U.S.-Iran top diplomats held intensive and lengthy discussions to reach an agreement over the 15 months of standoff with a third set for the end of March. Without successfully conclusion of the political agreement of principles, it will not govern the comprehensive deal but attainment of an agreement within the deadline seems not easy.

    The ongoing negotiation between the two sides has narrowed down the differences with significant progress. However, the scale of Iran’s uranium enrichment and the timetable for the lifting of Iran’s sanctions are still disputed issues. Iran has suspended some of its enrichment programs while the United States extended the November 2014 deadline to till June, 30 2015. Iran wants to lift sanctions swiftly and demanded to own its uranium enrichment capability.

    Likewise, the U.S is in favor of gradual lift of the sanction. Tehran and the six world powers failed to work out a permanent nuclear deal within November 2014 deadline. But there are issues that need to be addressed. In November 2013, Iran and the world powers signed the interim deal in Geneva. They decided to extend the deadline to reach a high-level political agreement by March 1 and to come up with a complete technical detail of the agreement by July 1.

    Iran and western nations are seeking to seal a high-profile deal that means a high opportunity and challenge to both U.S. and Iran. Despite the hard- liner’s objection, Iranian nuclear decision-making process is very clear after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed optimism over the final deal. U.S. President Barack Obama too is committed towards reaching a final deal on the issue. The government is the supreme authority to trustworthiness but the challenges it to neutralize some of domestic upsets and other scenario.

    U.S. and Iran’s negotiators have been trying to find out a pragmatic deal to avoid any future destructive war in the Middle East. In the U.S., 46 Republican senators signed against the Iran’s nuclear deal but different polls suggest that the Americans want to reach a deal with Iran’s nuclear program. A recent CNN/ORC poll shows sixty-eight percent of Americans favor the ongoing negotiations. Likewise, a recent survey of University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation Polls suggests that not only Democrats but even the Republicans in the Congress are in favor of the deal. Only 36 percent favored increasing sanctions in an effort to end the program.

    Negotiations between United States and Iran were never better in the past. But the time has changed with Iran led by reformist President Hassan Rouhani who is the former head of nuclear negotiating team (2003-2005). During the Iran’s former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami’s period EU 3 – Britain, France and Germany insisted to resolving the nuclear deal but did not succeed. President George W Bush blamed Iran as a part of an “axis of evil.”

    Iran branded U.S. as a “Great Satan”. Despite the harsh rhetoric, Bush’s administration also made efforts to deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Even hardliner past President Bush had changed his previous policy and told the UN General Assembly, “We work toward diplomatic solution on this crisis and as we do live in freedom, America and Iran can be good friends and close friends for peace”. He also wanted mutual gestures and tactical partnership in Afghan war in 2001 and Iran war in 2003.

    Iran’s hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replaced experienced nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. Ali Larijani had held intensive and diplomatic talks with EU foreign policy chief. Larijai also visited Europe to New York for negotiation efforts. In New York, he met with EU as well Russian and Chinese foreign ministers. He also held first-ever direct talks with US foreign Secretary Condoleeza Rice before the General Assembly started. Iran’s new open-minded government’s start of pragmatic ability is a good gesture for a compressive deal. U.S. too wants diplomatic solution rather than another costly and bloody war.

    It is too early to say that Iran’s nuclear deal will reach a conclusion since swift lift of sanctions depends upon Iran’s steps.  Despite the cold relations, West and Iran have been open a secret channel of communication and both sides need to seek rapprochement of their relations. Relationship between the two sides is interesting because of the mentality of psychological war. Interestingly, both sides want to implement their respective agenda and influence in the region.

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