Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kabul: An ally in war

President Hamid Karzai, who is accustomed to blowing hot and cold in his attitude towards Pakistan, is apparently passing through a kindlier phase. In an interview with a private Pakistani TV channel, he voiced brotherly feelings towards the country. His remark, "Afghanistan will stand by Pakistan, if attacked by the US," astonished the audience and apparently the interviewer as well. Probed further, he declared that even in the case of an attack by India, or for that matter, by any other quarter, Afghans would side with Pakistan. Seen in the context of the climate of tension between the US and Pakistan, the strategic partnership agreement he signed with India not long ago, and on top of it all, his periodic outburst against Islamabad, most recently accusing it of masterminding and even carrying out the murder of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, his statement is, indeed, a significant about-turn.
Mr Karzai argued that Pakistan’s generous treatment of the five million Afghan refugees, who had fled the country during the Soviet invasion and provided shelter and taken care of by Pakistan, had strengthened the spirit of brotherhood among the people of Afghanistan for their Pakistani counterparts. He added that he could not possibly overlook that help extended at a critical juncture of Afghanistan's history and “betray a brother...despite all that the Pakistan establishment has done to Afghanistan.” But notwithstanding all his goodwill gestures, Pakistan may be forgiven for wondering how long the Afghan President will continue to hold such kindly sentiments for Pakistan. During the very same interview, he seemed to be toeing the American line about the location of terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. He said that the so-called Taliban Shura was headquartered at Quetta and the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups were based in Pakistan. Despite the serious nature of the allegations about terrorist strongholds in Pakistan, our government should seize the opportunity of his commitment to defend the territorial integrity of our country and build further brotherly relations on the basis of this overture. In the process, it should be possible to convince him that no terrorist group is operating from the Pakistani soil for the nefarious purpose of destabilizing Afghanistan.
President Karzai also vented his grievances against the US, asking it to stop entering Afghan homes. US and NATO troops are reported to enter ordinary people’s homes on the pretext of conducting night raids to get hold of Taliban suspects, but in reality they cause not only civilian casualties, but also outrage among the population that regards the sanctity of homes as a matter of honour. The Americans have dismissed the feeling, perhaps, on the ground that the invasion of their land has, in any case, turned the Afghans against them. Mr Karzai should realise that stabilising Afghanistan without the presence of US and other foreign troops is the only long-term solution that can pave the way for reconciliation within estranged sections of Afghan society.

Karzai’s pledge of support to Pakistan jolts America: WSJ

NEW YORK - President Hamid Karzai’s statement over the weekend that he would back Pakistan if it went to war with the US gave an ‘unexpected jolt’ to Washington’s latest attempts to strengthen its relationship with the Afghan leader, a major American newspaper said Sunday.
“The prospects for a US war with Pakistan are remote, and Mr Karzai’s comments were viewed by some Afghan and Western officials in Kabul as a poorly executed effort to blunt his recent angry comments about Pakistan’s support for Afghan insurgent groups,” The Wall Street Journal said in a dispatch from the Afghan Capital.
“This is not about war with each other,” Gavin Sundwall, spokesman for the US Embassy in Kabul, was quoted as saying by the Journal. “This is about a joint approach to a threat to all three of our countries.”
“Mr Karzai’s comments came as a surprise to some Western officials in Kabul, who were heartened by the success of last week’s visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” the dispatch said.
In the past, the Journal pointed out that Karzai has alienated his Western allies with comments suggesting that he might side with the Taliban, or that America could come to be seen as an occupier if its forces didn’t stop killing Afghan civilians.
“Mr Karzai’s latest remarks struck a nerve with some Afghan and Western officials in Kabul who were reminded of the president’s penchant for criticising the US-led coalition that supports and funds his government,” the dispatch said.
“It was totally careless, unnecessary and, yes, irresponsible,” an unnamed Afghan official was quoted as saying. “He hasn’t pleased anyone except, maybe, a few Pakistani generals.”
American officials said, however, that Karzai’s remarks wouldn’t overshadow Mrs Clinton’s visit. “Mr Karzai and Mrs Clinton were united during her trip in demanding that Pakistan stop supporting the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups.”
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have vacillated over the past year between spells of political chill and attempts at a rapprochement, the Journal pointed out.
Karzai and the US have sought to pressure Pakistan in recent weeks to clamp down on the Haqqani insurgent network suspected of staging a series of deadly attacks on American and Afghan targets.
Afghan officials also accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of involvement in last month’s assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan president who had been leading the country’s peace entreaties to the Taliban. Pakistan denied these accusations.
Earlier this month, Karzai flew to New Delhi to sign a strategic agreement with India. The move angered Pakistani officials, who viewed it as political provocation, the dispatch said.

Indian Army declared terrorist by Canada

Indian chopper force to land,after violating airspace of Pakistan

An Indian military Cheetah helicopter belonging to the 666 Siachen Falcons Squadron that violated Pakistani airspace near the Line of Control in Kargil sector in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan at 1:00 p.m. (PST) was forced to land near Olding, Pakistan after being intercepted by Pakistan Air Force fighter jets. The helicopter has been impounded and all four Indian military personnel on board have been taken into custody by the Pakistan Army. The four military personnel include 1 pilot (a Colonel), 1 co-pilot (a Major), 1 Engineer (a Major) and a JCO. The helicopter and crew are now in Skardu.

Indian television reports cited army sources saying the airspace violation by the Cheetah model helicopter operated by the 666 Siachen Falcons was not intentional.

The reports said the helicopter entered Pakistan territory during “whiteout” conditions due to snow in the montainous region.

“It was due to bad weather that the Cheetah chopper strayed across the LoC. There was no deliberate attempt to intrude,” the Indian army said in a statement to Times Now television station, referring to the de facto border in the divided Kashmir region known as the Line of Control.

The military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas had told Reuters that ”the helicopter had came deep into our airspace. It was forced to land. Four Indian army officers have been taken into safe custody. They are safe.”
The two nuclear-armed South Asian rivals have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947.
However, their relations have improved after they resumed a peace process this year which was suspended after co-ordinated attacks by Pakistan-based militants in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, that killed 166 people.

U.S. Military Sees JLTV Development Gain Speed

The U.S. military's program to replace the Humvee has had more ups and downs than the road on which they are tested, but things look to be moving forward.
Above, an artist's rendering of Lockheed Martin's entry into the JLTV competition. (Lockheed Martin)
U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps leaders trimmed a lot of extras to cut the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) cost by $100,000. This also will slice 16 months from the $52 million engineering, manufacturing and development phase, which will end in May 2012. That means the $270,000 base vehicle will come cheaper and sooner, as a single contract award is now scheduled for 2015.
The Army wants at least 20,000 JLTVs with the potential for a larger buy for the program with an estimated worth of $20 billion. Army officials plan to replace a third of their 150,000-vehicle Humvee fleet with the JLTV. The Marine Corps plans to buy 5,500.
The services are now trying to convince the Senate Appropriations Committee, which had recommended the JLTV program be terminated, to come along for the ride.
"We spent all the time with the Marine Corps getting the requirements right that we frankly didn't tell the story to you all, to the Senate, and particularly the Senate Appropriations Committee about the good work that is going on," said Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff for U.S. Army programs.
The new vehicle, outlined in an Oct. 3 draft request for proposal, will have the survivability of a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, better mobility than a Humvee and the ability to add mission kits. It will be transportable by ship or helicopter and be able to provide 30 kilowatts of exportable power. Six variants with companion trailers will make up the JLTV family, which will include a four-seat, close-combat weapons carrier, a two-seat utility carrier and shelter, a four-seat general purpose vehicle, a heavy guns carrier and command-and-control-on-the-move vehicle.
The latest changes include an increase to allowable weight from 12,600 pounds to 14,000 pounds. The original number was needed so the Marine Corps' CH-53 Sea Stallion could sling load the JLTV at high altitudes and high temperatures. But industry teams would have to experiment with exotic materials to reach such weight, said Katheryn Hasse, Lockheed Martin's director of tactical wheeled vehicles.
And while most initial entries could produce as much as twice the required 30 kilowatts of external power, the new standard will cut weight and cost.
Critics have ripped the program's lengthy technology development phase, but service officials wouldn't have been able to reach the requirement consensus without it, said Col. David Bassett, the Army program manager for Tactical Vehicles.
Four defense teams led by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Oshkosh Defense and General Tactical Vehicles, a joint team of General Dynamics Land Systems and Humvee-maker AM General, have developed prototypes and will submit bids for the EMD phase. Three will be selected to move forward. Officials are mum on a lot of the details, as they don't want to show their hand before placing their bets. But here is a taste of what is to come:
BAE Systems
BAE Systems delivered 11 JLTVs for the TD phase, which is 12 months of rigorous government testing.
The vehicle, now in its fourth generation, is designed with payload, protection and performance in mind but is scalable for future technologies, said Deepak Bazaz, program manager.
If the decision were made on looks alone, the sleek BAE vehicle would have this in the bank. But this isn't a beauty pageant, and BAE knows it. So its bottom-up design is centered on the soldier. The company even calls the vehicle a "Valanx," a combination of the ancient Greek "phalanx" formation designed to protect soldiers in combat, with a nod to the V-shaped hull designed to deflect a mine blast away from the vehicle.
BAE also teamed with the existing commercial base in a strategy to keep production and spare parts costs down, Bazaz said. Northrop Grumman has the lead on command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The vehicle comes with a Navistar engine, Allison transmission and Meritor suspension.
Clip structures forward and back take the load into the suspension system to provide greater survivability. Ground height is not set, though earlier variants had a 24-inch max standoff. Simply put, the higher the vehicle is, the farther away the soldier is from a roadside bomb blast.
Officials said they "prefer not to share specific numbers" as the program approaches the EMD competition but are "very confident" the vehicle will meet reliability and fuel economy requirements. Bazaz also said the vehicle will achieve weight standards "with margin."
"It all comes down to performance against the requirements," he said. "We've got a very compliant vehicle at an affordable price point because of our commercial relationships and our partner strengths with our expertise in survivability. When you put all of that together, you get a very strong combination that we can bring to the Army."
General Tactical Vehicles
The General Dynamics/AM General team is finishing the redesign on a vehicle that combines the General Dynamics' skills in survivability with AM General's experience in this arena. And the influence of the latter is evident when looking at the vehicle, which some have described as a "Hummer on steroids."
The GTV JLTV incorporates the Stryker's double-V hull, said Mike Cannon, senior vice president of ground combat systems for General Dynamics.
"Lessons learned out of the TD phase are really going to inform us on the EMD phase," Cannon said. "We did not pay enough attention to quality going in the TD phase, but we're going to be dead on it in EMD. We're going to be all over it."
The tag team is also exploring other nondevelopmental capabilities, primarily relief from the height requirement. The company looked to negotiate a change during a private, two-hour session with program leaders that was offered to each company last week. Cannon said the height requirement would force them to reduce either the space between the vehicle and a roadside bomb or the crew space, and the company is not interested in an adjustable suspension because it adds a lot of cost.
"We have a really strong partner," Cannon said. "We have strong capabilities, systems integrators, systems engineering and survivability. That's our forte."
Lockheed Martin
Lockheed's JLTV is designed to bridge the capability gap between the Humvee and MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle by boosting mobility, payload and force protection, Hasse said.
The V-hulled vehicle achieved MRAP-level blast protection Oct. 4 while weighing 40 percent less than the M-ATV. Lockheed, which has partnered with BAE Global Tactical Systems, has logged more than 160,000 testing miles and has a fuel efficiency of 12 miles per gallon with the Gunner Protection Kit - a 50 percent increase over a Humvee with no armor. The company also is designing the JLTV to 13,800 pounds to provide a margin for growth and is confident it will hit the reliability requirement of 3,600 mean miles between failure.
"Are we there today? The answer is no," Hasse said. "But we will begin the EMD phase at a very substantial level of reliability … about 3,600 mean miles between hardware mission failure. That is a very reliable base to continue to tweak the design and take the corrective actions to achieve the level of reliability the government desires.
Soldiers will especially like the user-friendly crew cab, which was designed around the war fighter. Lockheed leveraged its aerospace background and systems integration experience to incorporate a substantial amount of capability into the dashboard, which frees space for the war fighter.
"We're going to provide the levels of force protection that the Army requires, which are substantially more than JLTV was and originally intended to do, and we're going to do it in a package that is very reliable," Hasse said. "We've already proven that in our TD program and our internal testing program."
Oshkosh Defense
Despite its strong showing with the M-ATV, Oshkosh is the new kid on the JLTV block as it did not participate in the TD phase.
But that doesn't cause Rob Messina, vice president for defense engineering, to lose any sleep. His Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, or L-ATV, is the sixth generation in a light vehicle family in which Oshkosh has invested more than $60 million. "We can show reliable history, well-developed components and performances that are in the range the customer is looking for," he said.
This latest evolution leverages the M-ATV's modular and scalable protection. It replaces the diesel-electric power train with an electric power train, but its key strength is its mobility. The vehicle includes the TAK-4i intelligent suspension system. Built on 10 years of operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the system provides up to 20 inches of independent wheel travel. These combine to provide a vehicle that is 50 percent faster off-road than the M-ATV, Messina said.
Improved shock absorption also allows high speed on rough terrain while keeping passengers comfortable and lowering driver fatigue. Messina would not say where the L-ATV stands on reliability, fuel efficiency or weight, but he said the Marine Corps' high-hot requirement, which is 12,600 pounds, is achievable with the base variant.
Messina said he is confident Oshkosh can provide a "threshold or better performance" at the cost requirement - so confident, in fact, that Messina said he will be asking Army leaders to change their policy and give credit for performance above threshold.

Panetta: U.S., Indonesia Continue to Develop Ties

NUSA DUA, Indonesia - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Oct. 23 that Washington will continue to develop military ties with Indonesia but keep a watchful eye on rights abuses, after over a decade of suspended cooperation.
He said closed-door talks with Indonesian counterpart Purnomo Yusgiantoro focused on "Indonesia's growing importance as a global leader and the long-term commitment of the U.S. to the security and prosperity of this region.
"This year alone the U.S. is conducting more than 150 activities, exchanges and visits with the Indonesian military," Panetta told reporters on the resort island of Bali.
Panetta said the U.S. was still monitoring possible rights abuses, noting last week's incident in Indonesia's easternmost Papua province where five people were found dead after security forces stormed a pro-independence assembly.
"We support Indonesia's efforts against separatism in that area but when it comes to any human rights abuses ... we want to ensure that discipline is taken and exerted against anyone who violates human rights," Panetta said.
"We expressed concerns about the events that have occurred there and the MoD made it clear that the matter is under investigation."
Relations with the Indonesian army had nearly screeched to a halt and remained frozen for 12 years over abuses during former dictator Suharto's 32-year rule, which ended in 1998.
Indonesia's Kopassus commando unit is accused of deadly abuses in Papua, East Timor and Aceh during that time. Bilateral cooperation was restarted in July 2010 by Panetta's predecessor, Robert Gates.
A senior defense official travelling with Panetta said cooperation that was initially focused on the highest echelons of the army now extended to the operational level, including training in human rights.
In his first trip to the region since taking the helm in July at the Pentagon, the former CIA director Panetta began his tour in Indonesia before heading to Japan on Oct. 24 and South Korea on Oct. 26.
His trip coincides with sensitive direct talks between the United States and North Korea in Geneva on Oct. 24 to try to lay the ground for reviving long-stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations.
During his stay in Bali, Panetta will also meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the sidelines of the bloc's meeting on the island.
"There's a clear message that I'm going to bring to the region ... we will remain a strong Pacific force in the 21st century, and we will maintain a strong presence in the Pacific in the 21st century," Panetta told reporters.
Disputes between ASEAN members and China over the resource-rich South China Sea are likely to feature high on the agenda, as Washington has called for a regional code of conduct and insisted on "freedom of navigation" through the crucial global shipping route despite Beijing's territorial claims.
Panetta's trip also comes as the United States and North Korea are to hold direct talks in Geneva.
Before any broader discussions, the U.S. and South Korea are insisting the North take concrete steps to demonstrate it is sincere about resuming full six-party nuclear talks which also include Japan, Russia and China.
The defense chiefs will consider steps to bolster diplomacy, but also ensure that they are prepared, should North Korea "choose to undertake a provocation," said the official.