Tensions on the rise in South Asia

What happens when you have the confluence of terrorism, geopolitics, populism and religious fervor? Usually it is bad news and the Indian sub-continent has been in a constant state of tension as we have two dissimilar paths being taken by the main protagonists. You have one country trying to rapidly industrialize and grow its economy while the other is well on its way to sliding into extremism. In this article, Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project looks at the rise in tensions between India and Pakistan.

Tensions continue to rise between India and Pakistan

Tensions continue to rise between India and Pakistan

“This summer, clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops have escalated along the ceasefire line in Kashmir. Called “the Line of Control,” the Kashmiri front line this year has witnessed the worst exchanges of artillery and small arms fire in a decade, displacing hundreds of civilians on both sides. More than 20 have died in the crossfire already this month. Modi has ordered his army commanders to strike back hard at the Line of Control to demonstrate Indian resolve.

Although Modi made a big gesture in May when he invited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his inauguration, since then Modi has canceled routine diplomatic talks with Pakistan on Kashmir and signaled a tough line toward terrorism. He also appointed a very experienced intelligence chief, Ajit Doval as his national security adviser. Doval is known as a hard-liner on terrorism—and on Pakistan.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party strongly criticized his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, for what it saw as a weak response to LeT’s attack on Mumbai in 2008. No military action was taken after 10 LeT terrorists, armed and trained by the ISI, killed and wounded hundreds of innocents, including six American dead.”



Afghan opium poppy production reaches record high

The War on Terror has not been very helpful to the War on Drugs, with reports emerging that opium poppy production is hitting new highs in Afghanistan since the Taliban were running the country over a decade ago. How does this happen? Does Afghanistan have absolutely no other economic prospects other than producing a substance that wrecks havoc both on the native population and on millions of people addicted to its derivatives (heroin) overseas? The United States has spent $7.6 billion to counter the spread of narcotics even as its soldiers provide security for the Afghan opium poppy fields (as seen in the picture below). Two very diametrically opposed circumstances that should raise red flags.

An Afghan tends to his opium poppy fields as US soldiers guard fields

An Afghan farmer tends to his opium poppy fields as US soldiers stand on guard

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Afghan farmers grew an “unprecedented” 209,000 hectares (523,000 acres) of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous high of 193,000 hectares in 2007, said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

“In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the US government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production,” Sopko said in a letter to the secretary of state, John Kerry, the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, and other top US officials.

“The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts,” he said on Tuesday.

Afghanistan produces more than 80% of the world’s illicit opium, and profits from the illegal trade help fund the Taliban insurgency. US government officials blame poppy production for fueling corruption and instability, undermining good government and subverting the legal economy.


Canada in terrorism crosshairs

For the second time in a span of just two days, Canadian soldiers have been targeted at home by terrorists. This latest incident from Ottawa is both sad and disconcerting when one considers the details. It is sad as the murdered soldier, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, was performing his duty as the ceremonial honour guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The concerning aspect is that after murdering the Corporal, the gunman was able to walk right into the Centre Block of the Canadian Parliament unchallenged by police or security, where nearly all of the country’s Members of Parliament were preparing for meetings. He has been identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born convert to Islam from Quebec who was known to Canadian authorities and possibly suffering from mental problems.

Terror attack on a war memorial and the Canadian Parliament

Terror attack on a war memorial and the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa as Canadian comes under the crosshairs of Islamic terrorism

The stone halls of Parliament Hill echoed with gunfire and were stained with blood Wednesday as a terrorist struck at the heart of the federal government after gunning down a sentry at the National War Memorial.

The gunman was shot and killed near the Library of Parliament, according to Ottawa police sources, by House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former RCMP officer and the man responsible for security on the Hill.

A witness said the gunman, carrying the rifle at his hip, walked deliberately up the west ramp of Centre Block and through the main doors of Parliament as bystanders cowered.

It would seem that he could have killed a lot of other people on his way to Parliament Hill but may have desired to go after higher profile targets. Thankfully he was killed before being able to completely fulfil his terror attack. Initial reports stated multiple shooters involved but the Canadian authorities have been trying to steer this to a “lone gunman” incident over the last 12 hours. Even though a lot of incorrect information could be released in the initial chaos, it is also possible that they are doing this to understate the problem while efforts continue behind the scenes to apprehend other accomplices of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

Unlike most terrorist attacks that tend to be perpetrated against general citizens, this once again targeted Canadian military personnel and sought to harm lawmakers. The impact this has on the latter – the Members of Parliament, their staff and other bureaucrats who were in the Parliament and surrounding area – will be worth monitoring as it could play a significant role in how counter terrorism policy is crafted in Canada. Will their direct confrontation with terror lead to stricter security laws, a clampdown on religious radicalization, reduced freedoms for Canadian citizens or changes in immigration policy?


Russia and China conduct anti-terrorism drill

Russia and China have been developing deeper economic, military and strategic ties – to the point where many believe that a new east versus west Cold War may be at its nascent stages. So it should not come as a huge surprise to see them also co-operating in the fight against terrorism, which they both believe to be a problem. The Chinese have clamped down on the Uighurs in Xinjiang and Russia has long fought against Islamic terrorist and separatist groups in its Caucasus region.

China and Russia held an anti-terrorism drill in Inner Mongolia

China and Russia held an anti-terrorism drill in Inner Mongolia

Chinese and Russian policemen attend a joint anti-terror drill in Manzhouli City, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Oct. 20, 2014. In order to boost coordinated ability to fight terrorism in the border region, Chinese and Russian police held a anti-terror drill on Monday, which involves planning hostage rescues and physical competitions between both squads. (Xinhua/Zhang Ling)

Also of interest is to note that:

In August, a multinational anti-terror drill was held in China’s Inner Mongolia by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, aiming to deter the “three evil forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism.


Canadian “radical” runs over two soldiers

Two Canadian Armed Forces soldiers were intentionally run over by a car, driven by what is described as a “radicalized” man, in the province of Quebec. One of the soldiers succumbed to his injuries and the perpetrator (Martin Rouleau) was shot by police at the end of a brief car chase. It is being reported that Rouleau’s Facebook page identifies him as Ahmad LeConverti (Ahmad the Converted) who converted to Islam last year and was interested in the ongoing Middle East campaigns of the Islamic State.

Overturned car of radicalized Quebecer Martin Rouleau (Ahmad LeConverti)

Overturned car of radicalized Quebecer Martin Rouleau (Ahmad LeConverti)

The above story from the Toronto Star also adds that:

“It was a terrorist attack and Martin died like he wanted to. That’s what happened,” one close friend, who asked not to be named, told the Star…

As Rouleau fled from the scene, La Presse reported, he called a 911 dispatcher and explained that he was “acting in the name of Allah.”

All of this happened with local police chasing him along one of the town’s main thoroughfares and into a residential area, where Rouleau lost control of his vehicle, flipped, and landed upside down in a ditch.

He reportedly emerged from the overturned car with a knife in his hands, a threat that drew the gunfire of police.

 Though the method of murder is different, this targeting of soldiers does remind us of the 2013 Lee Rigby murder from Great Britain.