September 24, 2013

General VK Singh and the messy end of TSD covert action unit

General (retd) VK Singh's (right) involvement in politics has made him a political target. His enemies are using the messy demise of TSD and allegations of political payoffs against him.

General (retd) VK Singh, India's Chief of Army Staff until 2012. He also presided over an Indian "cover action" and "special operations" unit given the innocuous title "Technical Services Division (TSD)". TSD has since been disbanded.
From  on US website IntelNews September 24, 2013,

"India disbands spy unit that conducted covert operations abroad"                  

A controversial military intelligence unit that conducted at least eight covert operations in foreign countries between 2008 and 2012 has been disbanded by the government of India.
The country’s Ministry of Defense authorized the establishment of the unit in late 2008, following the Mumbai attacks, which killed over 150 and injured nearly 600 people. The attacks, which lasted for almost four days, involved a dozen coordinated bombing attacks and shooting incidents in India’s largest urban center, carried out by Pakistani nationalists.
The covert-action unit was named Technical Services Division (TSD) and led by retired General VK Singh, who served as the Indian Army’s Chief of Staff from 2010 to 2012. According to the media,    the TSD was approved by a host of senior Indian government officials, including Lieutenant General RK Loomba, Director General of India’s Military Intelligence.
The TSD was tasked with “planning and executing special operations inside depth areas of countries of interest” to India. It was also tasked with “countering enemy efforts within the country by effective covert means”.
Most of its “special operations” on foreign soil are said to have been conducted inside Pakistan, in an effort to combat what the Indian government views as “state-sponsored terrorism” by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Its main tactical mission centered on targeting Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, said to have been behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
But the TSD has now been disbanded following revelations that it used its mandate to spy on Indian politicians in New Delhi and the Indian province of Kashmir, whose political views on India’s relations with Pakistan were seen as too conciliatory.
Some press reports suggest that communications interception equipment purchased [by TSD] from a company headquartered in Singapore, which were intended for use in Pakistan, were in fact directed against the domestic communications of Indian politicians. There are also allegations that funds provided to the TSD by the Indian military “never reached the intended beneficiaries”. An Indian government spokesperson told The Hindustan Times newspaper that “the unit has now been disbanded” pending an official investigation into allegations of corruption."

September 18, 2013

Article on Pakistan's Swat Valley

The Swat Valley (above) could have been like a Switzerland of South Asia.

The reality. The Swat Valley is apparently too dangerous for Pakistan's Army.

Australian journalist Graham Cooke has written this excellent article of September 18, 2013 concerning the endemic problems of Pakistan's Swat Valley. This article appeared on ON LINE opinion  - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

"Uneasy peace in the Swat Valley"

The bus, containing mostly locals with a smattering of Westerners, was taking its passengers to one of the Valley's premier attractions where ice-cold waters, fuelled by melting snows, rush down from the mountains providing some relief from the relentless late summer heat.

Certainly much has changed since 2008 when the Tehreek-i-Taliban (otherwise known as the Pakistani Taliban or simply TTP) penetrated the Swat and fought pitched battles with the country's military. The talk everywhere now is of the peace negotiations which the Government has offered to the TTP and to which, at the time of writing, the TTP has not replied.

Even this hesitation is seen as a good sign – no outright refusal must be positive. In addition, there have been exchanges of prisoners and, for the moment, an end to the hostilities that have raged over this part of the country since the War on Terror was proclaimed more than a decade ago.

The allied invasion of Afghanistan forced the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies to set up headquarters over the border in Pakistan's already turbulent tribal areas. For a while it seemed the very integrity of the nation was at stake as the insurgents pushed towards the heavily populated south, but a rejuvenated and United States-financed military, supported by the highly-successful US drone program (which the Government in Islamabad routinely condemns as a violation of its sovereignty at the same time as the army is supplying the Americans with information about targets) has turned back the advance.

The pacification of the Swat Valley has been hailed as one of the military's success stories, but as many residents were quick to point out, the TTP has not gone away.

"What we have is no more than an agreement not to fight each other. The Taliban can stay as long as they don't make trouble," one stallholder said.

'Not making trouble' appears to involve introducing the Taliban's brutal version of Sharia Law into the areas which they control, resulting in an uneasy relationship between the TTP and the provincial administration.

The stallholder claimed that while the Taliban do have some admirers in the Swat, the majority just wish they would just go away.

"Things are definitely better. I am able to do some business again, but you never know what they [the TTP] will do next."

What they did do just on a year ago was gun down 15-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai for publically advocating girls should go to school in her Swat Valley village of Mingora. Malala survived and has now become an international icon for the education of females in the Muslim world. The TTP still say she and her father are on their death list.

In recent days Al Qaeda leader and Taliban ally Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is based somewhere on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, issued an order to his followers to attack the US on its home soil "using any opportunity you can". In a recorded speech posted to a website often used by terrorist groups, al-Zawahiri said the aim was to bleed the US economically, forcing it to spend billions of dollars on security.

Shortly after the announcement, a fleet of 15 NATO oil tankers carrying supplies to Afghanistan was attacked and destroyed in Baluchistan when armed motorcyclists opened fire on the convoy.
And health officials issued an urgent warning of a serious polio outbreak after the disease was detected in 16 children in the insurgents' stronghold of North Waziristan. Vaccinations in the area were halted after a local warlord allied to the Taliban said the Western-sponsored vaccination program was really a spying operation and threatened to attack medical teams.

An independent national security analyst, Matt Ernst, is concerned that with the US timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan looming, drone strikes will be scaled back and an attempt will be made to declare mission accomplished.

"How can we say it is accomplished when we still have a State Department travel advisory telling Americans to avoid all non-essential travel to Pakistan; when our consulate in Lahore remains closed and when kidnappings and assassinations are a regular occurrence," he said.

Doubting whether the Pakistani military has either the ability or the will to control terrorist groups within its borders, Ernst says that while Syria, Egypt and Iraq are currently grabbing the headlines, Pakistan remains at the heart of American security.

"There is a clear case for an increased US military engagement with Pakistan. What is lacking is both the political will and the will of the American people," Ernst said.

"Americans may want the troops to come home, but the only problem with that is that the enemies have not lost the will to fight and the mission is definitely not over."

As we were leaving the Swat the Pakistan military announced that it too was pulling out of the valley, convinced that security could now be safely left in the hands of paramilitary and civilian authorities. There was undisguised concern among many civilians as to what would happen once the soldiers have gone, highlighted by the death of the army commander in the Swat, Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi, when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the Upper Dir District just hours after the withdrawal was announced.

"People tell us that because Pakistan has a civilian Government, because we now have democracy, [Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz] Sharif will be able to talk to the Taliban and negotiate a settlement," our hotel keeper said.

"I should tell him that the Taliban has no respect for democracy and anyway, being democratic does not win wars."

The Swat has known strife ever since Alexander the Great penetrated the area 2300 years ago. Buddhism flourished here before the Muslim era and the valley abounds with rich archaeological treasures, many still to be properly explored.

Add to that the sparkling streams, placid lakes and majestic mountains, and it is not hard to see why, in the past, the Swat Valley attracted visitors from all over the world.

It remains to be seen whether this land, once the playground of princes and commoners alike, will be left to enjoy the fragile peace which has been unilaterally declared by its political masters."

September 16, 2013

The second Agni 5 test, any MIRV?


Unclear what payload Agni V can carry at the maximum 5,000 km range.


Agni 5's second test.

Notably the second Agni test was for one warhead but what about the three warhead MIRV testing?
Comments on Agni 5's first test - which took place in April 2012

India conducted its second Agni 5 ICBM test flight from Wheeler Island, Orissa on September 15, 2013. The Agni 5 has the range to fire a 500 kg warhead 8,000 km covering China, Japan, parts of Russia, most of Southeast Asia, much of Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and parts of Western Europe.

The Agni 5 is about 17 meters long, weighs 50 tonnes and has three rocket booster stages. It can be launched from a road mobile vehicle, hardened silo or from a special railway wagon.

The first test of the Agni 5 missile was conducted on April 19, 2012. The development of Agni 5 began in 2009 (according to DRDO). It may begin to be deployed from 2015.

The highly publicised second test is to a degree domestically aimed at justifying the high expense of missile development to the public and broader Indian Government (which has many competing interests for the money spent). The launch is a genuine source of pride for many in India and concern in Pakistan and China. Information on the Agni 5 ICBM (defined as 5,500+km range) test was highly detailed. Almost all parametres except multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle (MIRV) separation may have been tested.

The Agni 5 is arguably an Agni 3 with a third stage. The Agni 5 range may be 5,000 km with a 1,500 kg payload (with 3 multiple re-entry vehicles (MIRVs))  and (reportedly) 8,000 km with a 500 kg (one RV) payload. Agni 5 is specifically designed to have an average (probably 1,000 kg payload) range to strike all of China.

One of several reasons for developing the Agni 5 is as a response to China's similar weight, highly land mobile DF-21. While the DF-21 has an estimated range of only 3,000 km, when placed near the China-India border a DF-21 could hit all targets in India. In contrast an Agni 5 on the Indian side of the same border needs to boost warheads the length of China (5,000 km) to hit Beijing and Shanghai.

India's planned SLBMs in indigenous SSBNs will eventually provide the most survivable second and first strike option. Notably the US, France and UK have steadily shifted the majority of their active nuclear warheads to SSBNs over the last 30 years.

India's SLBMs from the defendable waters of the Indian Ocean will need a range of at least 6,500 km to hit any target in China. India's proposed plan of fitting 3 - 5,000 km range navalised Agni 3 SLBMs to its future SSBNs would require these SSBNs to transit the dangerous chokepoints in the Indonesian Archipelago to get within range. Chinese SSNs may guard these chokepoints. These high SLBM strategic and technical requirements in part explain why India at present is emphasising the land mobile Agni 5 component of its evolving nuclear triad.

Shorter range Prithvi  and Agni 1 and 2 missiles encompass Pakistan but Agni 3+ are needed to reach much of China and Agni 5 all of China. The proposed future Surya ICBM class will be able to hit any targets on the planet particularly other nuclear powers.

Agni 5 is or will be “all-composite” that is light casings in its booster stages to extend its range or to permit a heavier payload. According to DRDO sources, an MIRV payload would be significantly heavier since it would consist of several nuclear warheads, each weighing about 400 kg. A five-warhead MIRV, therefore, would weigh two tonnes.

About four additional and successful Agni 5 tests will be required before Agni 5 can be deployed (perhaps in 2015 more likely 2017) as India's long range deterrent missile.

See this blog's reports of Agni 5's first test at .

September 7, 2013

Pakistani PM Sharif supports development of new nuclear weapons

April 19, 2011 test of Hatf-IX (NASR) one of Pakistan's newest limited yield, small warhead, battlefield range ballistic missiles (BRBMs) . Catchy soundtrack for such a cold business!

Between one and six Hatf-IXs (NASRs) can be carried on transporter erector launchers (TELs).

US think-tank NTI's Global Security Newswire reports, September 6, 2013 :

"Pakistani Leader Backs Military's Pursuit of 'Full-Spectrum Deterrence'"

"Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday gave his backing to a plan to continue developing new nuclear-weapon capabilities, DAWN reported.

“Pakistan would not remain oblivious to evolving security dynamics in South Asia and would maintain a full-spectrum deterrence capability to deter all forms of aggression,” the government reportedly said in a statement released following the meeting of the National Command Authority, which Sharif chairs.

This week's meeting of the NCA body -- which has policy oversight over the country's nuclear arsenal -- was Sharif's first since he was elected prime minister in June, after having presided over the nation in earlier terms until a 1999 military coup. Some have anticipated since Sharif's election that he would work to lower tensions with longtime nuclear rival India.

The authority's endorsement of continued development of the atomic-weapons establishment could close perceived holes in Pakistan's nuclear capabilities, according to DAWN.

In recent years, Islamabad has focused on ramping up its plutonium production [Pakistan is roughly 50 percent finished in building a fourth nuclear reactor site at a facility that generates plutonium for nuclear bombs] capabilities and developing lower-yield tactical weapons in order to deter India's superior conventional forces.

[ NTI reports  Pakistan says its 37 mile [60 km] range Hatf 9 [or Hatf-IX or NASR] solid fuel [battlefield range ballistic missile (BRBM)] is capable of carrying out low-yield nuclear strikes and evading enemy defense systems. The weapon is aimed at deterring New Delhi from carrying out a fast-moving, limited conventional invasion of Pakistani territory -- the so-called “Cold Start” doctrine.

Meanwhile, India is increasingly focused on its supersonic 180-mile-range BrahMos cruise missile as the key new weapon that will give it a strategic advantage over its neighbor and longtime rival. The nuclear-capable missile’s superfast speeds mean it potentially could be used to carry out prompt strikes on extremist camps inside Pakistan.]

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a senior fellow with Harvard University's Belfer Center, told Global Security Newswire that he interprets Pakistan's pursuit of full-spectrum deterrence abilities to mean it will continue to focus on producing "smaller nuclear weapons with larger yields."

"In order to do this, they are dramatically expanding their production of plutonium," the former Energy Department director of  intelligence and counterintelligence said in an e-mail."

Risks and weapons of likely Syrian strikes

A much more detailed, interactive map on targeting is at

Its all over the media so it can be said:

It seems part of US strategy is to destroy or disable Syrian armed forces' weapons that are capable of projecting CWs. That includes missile launchers, artillery and aircraft (jets, prop-driven and helicopters). Also disabling airfields and air defences (inc S-300s).

Obama may not get sufficient political support to consider using Special Forces as this would constitute "boots on the ground".

There are a whole raft of dangers that may come into play after US-French strikes, including:

- Syrian civilian deaths caused by the strikes

- international and home-grown terrorist reactions (see "US tells embassy staff in Beirut to leave over 'potential threats', Syria tensions" of September 7, 2013)

- Assad or Hezbollah shelling or missiles aimed at Israel, Turkey and Jordan,

- Syrian use of anti-shipping missiles against tankers which would cause a large spike in world oil prices.

For those who follow high-tech weapons the following are some of the US and French weapons that may be involved in strikes against Syria. Most of the details are from ABC Australia's report of August 30, 2013 at :

Guided missile destroyers

The US currently has five guided missile destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea - the USS Gravely, the USS Barry, the USS Ramage, the USS Mahan and the USS Stout. Each ship can carry a maximum of 90-96 Tomahawk cruise missiles if loaded only with those weapons. The actual number they are carrying at any time depends on the mission and what other weapons and systems are needed.

Cruise missiles are likely to be the weapon of choice if Obama orders a strike because they don't expose a pilot to danger. Cruise missile have a range of about 1,610 kilometres hence can be used at a distance at which the destroyers are assumed safe from Syrian retaliation. Cruise missiles are ideal for action against Syria's integrated air defences.

The US usually has three destroyers in the region. The Mahan was due to rotate back home but was told to remain on station last Friday. The Stout has just arrived in the region to replace one of the other destroyers that was about to depart, the Navy said.


The US has 58 nuclear propelled submarines capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles. This includes four designated guided missile submarines (modified Ohio Class) capable of carrying up to 154 cruise missiles apiece. The Navy does not discuss the whereabouts of its submarines, but one or more could be tapped for duty if Obama decides to carry out targeted strikes against Syria.


US F-22s, F-18s, F-16s, F-15s fighter-bombers and B-2 stealth bombers, (less likely to be used are B-1and B-52 bombers) are capable of carrying conventional air-launched cruise missiles, faster rocket powered missiles and precision guided bombs.

Those could be called into play if needed, as they have been in previous conflicts in the Middle East, flying from bases in the US or bases elsewhere with F-18s off carriers. The air-launched cruise missiles also are stand-off weapons that could be dropped from outside Syrian territory.

Over-flight of countries neighbouring Syria is a consideration.

Aircraft carriers

The USS Harry S. Truman is currently in the northern Arabian Sea and the USS Nimitz is in the Indian Ocean. Aircraft from the two carriers could be called into service if needed to participate in an attack. But their participation appears unlikely. US officials have indicated any strikes against Syria are likely to be limited in scope.

Use of aircraft from the carriers would probably require a broader operation involving a US effort to destroy Syria's integrated air defences before sending planes over the country. The Nimitz has been supporting US operations in Afghanistan and is due to be replaced by the Truman, which is crossing the Arabian Sea to relieve the Nimitz so it can return home.

Amphibious assault ship

The USS Kearsarge recently ended a port call in the Gulf and is headed back out to sea. The vessel has a contingent of Marines but is not considered likely to participate in limited operations like the ones Obama is reported to be considering.

Additional aircraft at bases in the region

The US has additional aircraft at different bases in the region, in places like the UK, Italy, Cyprus and Turkey, that could support an operation against Syria if needed. But that is not seen as likely because it would require a much larger effort to remove the threat of Syria's air defences.


France also has cruise missile capable surface ships, the carrier Charles de Gaulle, submarines and fast jets .

September 1, 2013

Obama's Syrian strike strategy

Obama's decision to pause on any strike decision until after 9 September is realistic. Obama is shrewdly deferring to Congressional responsibility. It is  now up to Congress-people to consult their state and electoral district constituents. If Congress votes for "limited strikes against Assad" Obama  gains a mandate. If he loses the vote his hands are tied - so the US doesn't have world policeman against Syria's use of chemical weapons.

With the UK voting itself out and France waiting until the chemical weapons inspectors publish their conclusions (in 14 to 30 days) the US needs to persuade more allies to participate in a Coalition on Syria. Countries like Australia, Germany, Canada, and other NATO countries will be asked to contribute militarily or at least asked to officially support US actions - probably within 30 days.

The following is a well thought out article from Max Fisher of the Washington Post

"Here’s why Obama is giving up the element of surprise in Syria"

Military thinkers from Sun Tzu to Napoleon Bonaparte have long emphasized the element of surprise. So it might seem strange that the Obama administration is not just clearly telegraphing that it likely plans to launch limited strikes against Syria, but also when it’s going to strike and what with. Even the likely target list is starting to come out. This is the opposite of how military tactics are supposed to work, right?

Actually, publicly revealing when, how and where the United States (and some allies) will likely strike makes sense, given what Obama wants to accomplish. If his goal were to fully enter the Syrian civil war and decisively end it, then, yes, secrecy would be the way to go. But the administration has been very clear that it has a much more modest goal: to punish Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad for his suspected use of chemical weapons so that he, and future military leaders, won’t do it again.
What’s about to happen, if the United States and allies do go through with the strikes, is less of a war and more of a ritual. This isn’t about defeating Assad, it’s about punishing him. And that calls for being really precise about how much punishment the United States imposes.

If the U.S. military just fired off a bunch of missiles, it would probably cause more civilian causalities than with its current approach, and the amount of damage it caused would be tougher to predict. Maybe it causes less damage than the United States wants, and then Assad is not sufficiently deterred from future chemical weapons use. Maybe it causes more damage, and then Assad might feel compelled to respond, perhaps by striking Israel, and that’s how things spiral out of control.

No, what the Obama administration appears to want is a limited, finite series of strikes that will be carefully calibrated to send a message and cause the just-right amount of pain. It wants to set Assad back but it doesn’t want to cause death and mayhem. So the most likely option is probably to destroy a bunch of government or military infrastructure — much of which will probably be empty.

This is what the Clinton administration did in 1998 with Operation Desert Fox, when it and the United Kingdom bombed Iraq as punishment for cheating on weapons of mass destruction disarmament. The strikes were also intended to degrade Iraq’s WMD production capacity.

The 100 or so targets were, as now with Syria, telegraphed ahead of time. Many of them were empty. Iraq knew it was coming and was mostly unsurprised, which meant that it didn’t escalate. The campaign was limited in scope and, although the history of Iraq and WMDs is obviously a thorny one, appeared to be largely successful at least at punishing Saddam Hussein.

President Obama has long made clear that he worries that any involvement in Syria could lead the United States to get sucked into a long and intractable conflict that it would hurt more than help. But his administration also clearly believes that Assad’s suspected chemical weapons use could set a potentially dangerous enough precedent that it demands some military response.

A Desert Fox-style limited, telegraphed, calibrated series of offshore strikes appears to be the balance that the administration is striking."