The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

GHQ and Lahore terror attacks

The chickens have come home to roost and Pakistan is in a state of bewilderment and denial

Yesterday’s carnage in Lahore and Peshawar is a continuing catalog of the failures of intelligence and security services and of Pakistan’s inability to learn from past mistakes.  Two of the three institutions targeted yesterday — the FIA building and the Manawan training school were victims of past terror attacks.  Yet, apparently nothing was learned from those attacks and the terrorists were able to perpetrate their attacks, almost to script.

Even after yesterday’s terror strikes, enough anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that this pattern is likely to continue.  For one, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies don’t know who they’re up against.  The term “TTP affiliated organization” could mean just about anyone. That the TTP claims responsibility for any and all attacks doesn’t help separate fact from fiction.

In both the recent strikes against GHQ, Rawalpindi and the series of coordinated attacks in Lahore, certain aspects of the attacks stand out (see B Raman’s detailed analysis for more information).

The attacks in Pindi and Lahore were against (apparently well fortified) law and enforcement institutions.Both were fedayeen attacks and involved the use of handheld weapons and explosives. But both attacks were also accompanied by subsequent terror strikes in Peshawar, which resulted in more fatalities.  The M.O. of the Peshawar attacks was markedly different from that of Rawalpindi or Lahore.  Bomb-laden vehicles were detonated remotely near areas of urban concentration (a school and a bazaar).

It’s hard to say whether the attacks in Peshawar were related to the coordinated attacks in the Punjab. But they may provide some light on who was responsible for the attacks. The attacks in Peshawar are typical of the type of unconventional warfare that we know the TTP  and associated Pashtun groups are capable of waging — i.e., either “non-confrontational” attacks usually via IEDs, or single-person suicide attacks.  Insofar as unconventional urban warfare is concerned, the TTP seldom hunts in groups.

The attacks in Lahore and Pindi, however, betray the M.O. of terror groups from the Punjabi Deobandi/Barelvi madaris, which have a history of employing commando-style assaults against targets, both within Pakistan (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba) and in India (Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed).

By Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s own admission, the TTP has gradually built links with the Punjabi terror groups. If the brutal acts of the past two weeks are an indication of this alliance, then Islamabad is under attack from more directions than it can hope to counter.

However, while Pakistan initiated military action against the TTP via the PAF in Ladha yesterday, nothing was said or done about the terror outfits it nurtured in the Punjab. The chickens have come home to roost:  and the Pakistani security establishment’s response is one of denial, disbelief and bewilderment.

Pakistan’s inaction against Punjabi terror outfits is because of the belief that these groups do more good than harm to “the cause”.  The real question is:  how long before the Pakistan establishment perceives that this equation has been turned on its head?

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Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part II

(Also see: Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part I)

In the first part of this two-series article, I reviewed the government’s response to the November 25, 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks, specific intelligence and coordination failures between State and Central agencies and armed forces, the political fallout in the aftermath of the attack, and the government’s responses to addressing an impotent internal security apparatus. In this article, I will examine what needs to be done by the government of India if it wants to demonstrate that it is committed to securing the lives of its citizens.

In response to the terror attacks, the Indian government is planning to increase the headcount of the National Security Guard (NSG) and establish centers in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.  The second item on the government’s plan of action involves establishing a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) along the lines of the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Based on the “Combating Terrorism” report issued by the Second Administrative Reforms Committee, the FIA will be established as an agency of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and will be responsible for investigating federal crimes, including organized crime, terrorism, sedition, trafficking in arms and human beings, etc.

What else can India do? The past couple of days have made it particularly painful to watch Indian news channels or read Indian newspapers. Uninformed jingoism, poor grammar and unhinged newscasters have made following the coverage of the aftermath truly agonizing. On Times Now, for example, I was never quite sure if I was watching news coverage of the terror attacks or a trailer for Mission Impossible IV. If the media is to be believed, the Indian army is about to launch punitive assaults on Pakistan any time now. I hate to break this to them, but their mouths are writing checks their government can’t cash. India will not fight Pakistan, because to do so would be to write your own death certificate, along with that of Pakistan’s. Does this mean we lie down and take a kicking? Not necessarily. If India is serious about the security of its people, here are things that it should do:

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Filed under: 11/25/2008, black cat, commandos, Congress I, homeland security, India, Indian Army, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Laskhar-e-Toiba, let, Mumbai, Mumbai Terrorist Attack, National Security Guard, nsg, Pakistan, POTA, prevention of terrorist acts, south mumbai, taj, Terrorism, unlawful activities prevention act, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part I

As the dust around South Mumbai settles, the world beings to hear of the chilling sequence of events of November 25, 2008, and the days ensuing, as narrated by survivors and investigators. The lone surviving terrorist apprehended by law enforcement agents has implicated Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as the attacks primary sponsor. Pakistan has asked for evidence on these charges, and it is India’s responsibility, to its own citizens and the victims of the attack, to construct a case so water tight, that it would force Pakistan to act.

If there is a lesson that India should have learned from the December 13, 2001 Indian Parliament attack, it is that in emotionally charged times such as these, rhetoric and demagoguery emanating from India will provide enough room for Pakistan to wiggle out of any squeeze that India or the United States can effectively put on it to act on terror groups within its borders.

It is in India’s best interests therefore, to tone down the rhetoric, and work towards gathering incriminating evidence, provide it not only to Pakistan but also to the international community, and work with the United States in ensuring that pressure is put on Pakistan to take tangible steps to eradicate the LeT and other groups from operating in their country. In this two-part article, I will recap the inept governance (which continues to linger) that lead to this tragedy, highlight challenges that India’s internal security apparatus faces, summarize steps that the government plans to take (or has taken) to address security flaws, and point out areas that India should focus on going forward if we are serious about protecting the lives of our citizens.

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Filed under: 11/25/2008, 2008, 25/11/2008, black cat, commandos, India, Indian Army, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Laskhar-e-Toiba, let, Mumbai, Mumbai Terrorist Attack, National Security Guard, november 25, nsg, oberoi, Pakistan, Pranab Mukherjee, south mumbai, taj, Terrorism, usa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,