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South Asia Security Monitor - No. 268

Edited by Jeff M. Smith
January 28, 2011

Plans for a 30% increase in the number of Afghan security forces are being mulled by U.S. and Afghan officials, as Washington looks for ways to fill a potential security vacuum caused by the impending U.S. drawdown there. A year ago, the U.S.-led Coalition and Afghan officials set a target goal of 171,000 Afghan soldiers and 134,000 Afghan police and by October 2010 those numbers had nearly been met. Now, however, officials are considering a plan to boost the aggregate number of security forces by around 80,000, to 400,000. Over $20 billion in international funds have been spent on training and equipping Afghan forces between 2003 and 2009 and a further $20 billion has been allocated for 2010 and 2011. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin has indicated he support the increase and says Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen back the plan as well. (
Wall St. Journal January 6, 2011; The Hill January 25, 2011)


[Edtitor’s note: In recent years fewer and fewer public figures in Pakistan have been willing to stand as a voice for moderation, let alone vocally challenge extremists. That state of affairs became even more pronounced after the January 4 assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer by one of his bodyguards. Taseer was killed for suggesting Pakistan’s parliament revise the country’s notorious blasphemy law, by which those accused of defaming the Prophet Mohamed and Koran, or defiling a place of worship, can be sentenced to death. In the aftermath of Taseer’s assassination, mainstream Pakistani groups once thought moderate, like middle-class lawyers and Barelvi scholars, have showered praise on the governor’s assassin, Mumtaz Qadri.]

However, one significant Pakistani political figure has vocally condemned Qadri and those that have praised his actions, albeit from London. Bilawal Bhutto is the son of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the heir to her political legacy, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan’s largest political party. At a memorial service for Taseer in London, where Bhutto is pursuing a degree at Oxford, the young Pakistani leader took his fellow countrymen to task: “To those who are praising or justifying these crimes, I say: you, along with the killers of shaheed Salman Taseer are the real blasphemers.” He went on to add, “Those who wish to harm [Pakistani Christians] for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.” Meanwhile, Pakistani extremists have used the assassination of Taseer to target perhaps the only vocal voice for moderation left in the Pakistani parliament, PPP legislator Sherry Rehman. On January 7 a Karachi cleric issued a fatwa declaring Rehman an apostate, a charge that carries the punishment of death in Pakistan. (The National January 12, 2011)


U.S. and Afghan officials have long claimed that Iran has secretly supported Taliban insurgents inside Afghanistan despite the historical animosity between the two parties. (Iran backed the Northern Alliance against the Afghan Taliban government in the late 1990s). In May of 2010, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal charged that Iran was training fighters and sending weapons into Afghanistan and in March of 2010, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, then CENTCOM commander, said Al Qaeda “continued to use Iran as a key facilitation hub, where facilitators connect al Qaeda’s senior leadership to regional affiliates.” Now, the Long War Journal is reporting that the Qods force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp, has “tasked the Ansar Corps, a subcommand, with aiding the Taliban and other terror groups in Afghanistan.” The U.S. Treasury Department designated the commander of the Ansar Corps, General Hossein Musavi as a global terrorist on August 6, 2010. A Taliban commander described the Taliban’s relationship with Iran in March of 2010 to the UK’s Sunday Times: “Our religions and our histories are different but our target is the same – we both want to kill Americans.” (
Long War Journal January 10, 2011)


India’s Home Secretary, GK Pillai, has suggested his government would like to pull 25% of Indian troops from Kashmir over the next year as a “confidence building measure.” “If we can manage with local police, that would be the most ideal situation… that people don’t get harassed by the over-presence of security forces.” Between 300,000 and 500,000 Indian troops are estimated to be operating in Kashmir, the volatile Himalayan territory claimed by both India and Pakistan, where roughly 50,000 people have died since 1988, many at the hands of Pakistani-backed insurgents using guerilla and terrorist tactics. Violence in the Kashmir valley flared last summer with over 100 people killed in protests and clashes with Indian security forces. Kashmiris have long complained about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, under which Indian security forces are immune from prosecution, unauthorized assemblies of five or more persons are illegal, and people can be arrested without warrants. In an attempt to defuse these tensions, Pillai said the government was also considering “giving Pakistani Kashmiris six-month, multiple entry permits to visit relatives on the Indian side.”
Finally, in a rare case of the Indian military interjecting itself into policy and contradicting political officials, Indian army chief VK Singh responded to Pillai’s drawdown proposal hours later with a rebuttal. “The army does not feel the need to cut down forces, nor is it the right time to do it.” (
BBC January 14, 2011; DNA India January 15, 2011)

Related Categories: South Asia Program

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