Friday, November 28, 2008

War in Mumbai: Who Did It?

Something smells here. It doesn't feel like an Al Qaeda attack because the groups were small and no big bombs went off. It doesn't feel like a Taliban or pirate attack because no targets-of-opportunity were engaged.

This feels like a Spetsnaz-style diversionary assault: a platoon of men divided into groups of two to four dispersed to attack fixed targets in an economically or politically sensitive area, thus tying down police and military forces that otherwise might be free to engage in conventional warfare.

No, I don't think the Russians did it. However, it does strike me that an attack like this is just what Pakistan would have prepared to undertake in the event of a general war to liberate Kashmir. An operation pre-planned, with operators pre-trained and ready to go with a single phone call. Something that would be part of a larger operation, but with a diversionary element that would be the responsibility of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.

But now the new Pakistani government has been trying to reign in the ISI. Perhaps some rogue decided to set his group in motion as revenge. He might even have thought that he could keep his power and influence by doing so.

No wonder Pakistan promised full cooperation. Let's see how they live up to that promise.

Update, 11/29/08

So far, not very well: instead of sending the ISI boss, the Pakistanis, in response to domestic political pressure, are sending an unnamed lower-ranking official.

The ISI boss is new to the job, but he reports to his newly-elected political masters. Any information given to him will be applied to reinforce Pakistan's shaky democratic roots. A lower-ranking official lacks direct accountability, and his loyalties are more open to question. Will his report benefit the Pakistani government or the vested interests of the ISI and its subordinate terrorist groups? Thus it will be no surprise if the Indians are less than open with this envoy.

Furthermore, Pakistan has pointed out that if tensions with India rise they will abandon their offensive against the Taliban and move their troops to the India border. The prospect of a general war with India will surely freeze all discharges of intelligence personnel. It looks like some in the ISI are close to winning another round in their battle to imperil democracy in South Asia.

Update, 12/1/08

More ugly details: the dead at Nariman house had this distinction:
“Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims [Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka] bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again,” he said.
The Rabbi and his wife are what we Jews call our martyrs - victims of violence simply because they peacefully served G-d as Jews.

There are reports that the terrorists had intimate knowledge of the Chabad House because the terrorists had roomed there posing as Malaysian students. So they returned to torture and murder their host. The next time Muslims accuse others of “Islamophobia” - an unreasonable fear of Islam - they would do well to consider this incident, for if the Holtzbergs had feared Muslims more and refused the “students” lodging, they would have suffered less or not at all.

I find one tiny, hopeful note: a Muslim graveyard in Mumbai has refused to accept the bodies of the terrorists for burial: "People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim. Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime." (H/T: Kashmiri Nomad)

Related: The 3-step system to make a suicide terrorist.

Update, 12/3/08:

Apparently there were a total of six "Jewish and Israeli" victims at Chabad House. In the newspapers and blogs, both Indians and Pakistanis are claiming total support from the world's major powers, a distortion. For example, both China and the U.S. express support for Pakistan's elected government, but nonetheless are conducting their own investigations in the belief that the attack originated in Pakistan.

Also, I consider it a bad sign that although many Muslim leaders have condemned the attack, they usually have refused to condemn the perpetrators unless they believe they are non-Muslims. This is leaves the door open to blaming the victims and absolving the terrorists' leaders. Don't laugh. Pakistani President Zardari says he wants to try Pakistanis connected to the attack in Pakistan, rather than extradite them to India - yet Zardari claims, "The state of Pakistan is, of course, not involved" and refers to terrorists as "stateless individuals".

How does he know that? Yet it should be pointed out that it remains to be conclusively proved in public that the Mumbai Massacre terrorists are of Pakistani origin, and noted that local Pakistani investigators have tried on their own initiative to discover the family of the one terrorist captured alive, but without success.(H/T "Marlin" at The Long War Journal)

Update, 12/6/08

Israeli psychologists arrive in Mumbai to help Indians deal with trauma. link

CNN's has interviewed the nurse of two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg. link

Indian Muslims denounce terror: "There are some organisations and religious leaders doing awful things in the name of Islam like the Indian Mujaheedin, Al Qaeda and Taliban. We want to spread the message that killers of innocents are enemies of Islam” link

The Pakistani home village of the captured terrorist has been located. link

"The question facing New Delhi and also the US is how to strengthen the hands of the democratic government in Pakistan and at the same time hit out at the army and the ISI." link

"Pakistan is the only country in the world that negotiates with a gun to its own head."

"Pak on track to being named terrorist state" link

Condoleezza Rice reportedly told Pakistan that there is ‘irrefutable evidence’ of involvement of elements in the country in the Mumbai attacks and that it needs to act urgently and effectively to avert a strong international response. link

"US moves to declare former Pakistani officers international terrorists" link

Pakistan awaiting ‘concrete proof’ - but doesn't say what that could be. link

"The present assaults in Mumbai are qualitatively different. They are not acts of war; they are acts intended to provoke war....The Pakistani public is neither prepared nor equipped for a war against India." link

Pakistan went into a state of ‘high alert’ last weekend after a threatening phone call made to President Asif Ali Zardari by someone from Delhi who posed himself as the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. link

"When nuclear arsenals are involved, with insecure men in charge, doom cannot be ruled out." link

Clearly the emphasis is on provoking a conflict with India, and maybe with Washington as well. Only the ISI benefits in the current situation - and they possess all the means and motive necessary to produce it and nurture its murderous fruit, perhaps aiming to produce a bountiful harvest of death. (The ISI guys will just head for bunkers, hide in the hills, or leave the country altogether.) Can the ISI be stopped?

Update, 12/8/08

The terrorists' diary has been found. link

The State Department doesn't think that Pakistan is cooperating fully with the investigation - not yet, anyway. link

"The 'Islamophobia' canard after Mumbai"

Jihad terror justified by Pakistani general: link

Update 12/9/08

Terrorist talked to Chabad in NY before killing Rabbi. link:
During the time he held Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg; Holtsberg's wife, Rivka; and four other visitors to the center, Imran [one of the terrorists] repeatedly answered Holtsberg's mobile phone, talking to representatives of the Chabad movement in New York.

Imran spoke softly, said P.V. Viswanath, who translated the phone conversations in Urdu for Chabad officials.

"I think that shows something about his state of mind, it was very calm and collected," Viswanath told the AP in New York, where he is a finance professor at Pace University.

Viswanath, who grew up in Mumbai and is an Orthodox Jew, said Imran didn't display any anger or hatred for Jews. "He didn't say anything about Israel or make any anti-Semitic comments."

The terrorists did not kill out of personal antagonism. They may even have liked the Rabbi and his wife - they met them while pretending to be Malaysian students - but killed them anyway, because that was their job.

Meanwhile, in a game very dangerous to South Asia, Pakistan tells its own English-speaking population that it is pledged to "full cooperation", while it tells the rest of the world that it won't hand over any terrorists or their masters to India for extradition or questioning. That this furthers the impression of Pakistan as a state that trains and employs "stateless individuals" to attack others, simultaneously hiding them from justice behind its nuclear shield, is not reported. As the Pakistani Information Minister put it, “Pakistani media kept the country’s interests and the regional interest supreme and did not report anything that could lead to tension and contradictions.”

I grew up in the early 70s with Pakistani diplomats as neighbors, and liked and admired them and the country they represented, but that was a different era. One Pakistani writer traces the roots of Muslim extremism trace back to the policies of President Zia, though in my opinion the decay started with Pakistan's first democratic crisis back in 1958: as the legitimacy for rule grew thin, Pakistan's rulers increasingly leaned on Islam as a crutch. Now, it seems, as long as Pakistan's leadership refuses to be bold, violence may ebb and flow, but we will always have Pak-inspired terrorism with us.

Update, 12/10/08

What hard evidence do the Indians have of Pakistani involvement? The terrorists, spooked by a passing Indian coast patrol, forgot to destroy their satellite phone and GPS. The Indians got them both and all their records when they examined the boat the terrorists captured before the Mumbai assault. Additional details about satphone's calls may soon be available from its provider in the UAE.

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, established by the U.S. Congress last year, just issued a report bluntly stating that
The President must make securing biological and nuclear materials in Pakistan a priority. Congress should ensure that sufficient funding is available for this purpose, and other countries such as Russia and China should be enlisted to contribute to this effort.

There is a precedent: the U.S. took the lead in securing the nuclear materials of several Eastern European countries after the fall of the Soviet Union. I expect that this report will be highly influential in shaping future U.S. policy towards Pakistan. (H/T: Times of India)

Update, 12/14/08

Deduction as to why India doesn't trust Pakistan when it comes to sharing intelligence. link A call for action. Confession. Denial and excuses. Denial II. Denial III. "Hare-brained theories" Terrorist asks Pakistan for legal help. link
President Zardari acknowledges that “Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with a vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root.” My recommendation for Pakistan's government and my conviction that those "under arrest" in Pakistan will not be extradited or charged with a crime and will probably be released. link link

Update, 12/15/08

Dawn gets it right. Regardless of who was responsible -
there is an infrastructure with organisational, financial and operational resources to recruit, indoctrinate and train the jihadis. Clearly, such an infrastructure cannot exist and operate without an element of tolerance or support from powerful elements aligned to state agencies...Either the nation’s intelligence agencies are completely incompetent or totally complicit...It would, therefore, be prudent for the country’s security leadership to undertake to renounce the highly counterproductive use of non-state actors as a policy tool and launch a full-fledged clean-up operation on their own initiative.

- including neutralizing the terrorists' handlers. Sadly, this is unlikely to happen, as Pakistan's policy of using "non-state actors" dates back to 1948.

Update, 12/19/08

This is getting silly: He's not. Oh yes he is!

Pakistan has moved very far from the initial promise of "full cooperation". All evidence must be provided by foreigners, Pakistani records will not be revealed and Pakistani persons of interest may not be interviewed by investigators or journalists.

The Pakistani government has lost my respect. It may be a long time before I can view its representatives with the dignity they think is their due.

Update 8/3/10

It appears that Nariman House was the primary target of the Mumbai attacks. The motivation was, apparently, sheer anti-Semitism: link

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