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Revitalising Indian Democracy

Vinod Saighal’s book compels attention for several reasons. To begin with the Model for Restoration of Good Government (MRGG), a universal model that he unveiled in October 1995 found resonance around the country and some parts of the world, including the United Nations. It was translated into several languages. There are other firsts in the book. The author has covered an amazingly large spectrum in pursuance of his single-minded quest for a better India. He brings to it a perspective that is original and refreshing. In fact, it is rare to find such broad spectrum analysis from a single source. Many of the formulations would appeal to audiences in countries facing similar decline in the functioning of their democracies. 

In a series of talks delivered in 2010, 11 and 12 (Reconciling Coalition Dharma, Good Governance, National Security; Is the Constitution being constitutionally Undermined? Judicial Activism: Panacea, Bane or Boon) the author highlighted the terminal degeneracy that has set in at the very apex of governance. In similar vein he has expressed the view that in spite of the judiciary being accused in government circles of over-activism, in actual fact the judiciary has been reluctant to intervene, merely lamenting the decline in governance in several of their judgments. He goes on to say that had the judiciary been more assertive the present decline in practically all areas of governance could have been arrested much earlier. Relating to hardened criminals becoming legislators, their combined strength in the Electoral College will soon be larger than that of the national parties. Should the present trend continue, by giving a call for unity amongst their fraternity, they could hypothetically place an arch-criminal in the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the not too distant future. 


General Vinod Saighal retired from the Indian Army in 1995 from the post of Director General Military Training. Before that he had several active command assignments, including the command of an independent armoured formation and mountain and desert divisions. He has held an assignment with the UN peacekeeping forces as well as a tenure in Iran . He had served as the country's Military Attache in France and BENELUX, additionally overseeing Spain and Portugal. He speaks several languages including French and Persian. Currently he is the Executive Director of Eco Monitors Society a non-governmental organization concerned with demography and ecology. After retirement, he founded the Movement for Restoration of Good Government. He has lectured extensively in India and abroad on several burning issues of the day. Vinod Saighal was invited to join the 'Institutional Advisory Board' of USFSS (US Federation of Scientists and Scholars) in 2000. He has been International Conseiller to Centre d'Etude et de Prospective Strategique (CEPS), Paris , France since 1995. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed book 'Third Millennium Equipoise'. Additionally, he has authored Restructuring South Asian Security, Restructuring Pakistan , Dealing with Global Terrorism: The Way Forward and Global Security Paradoxes: 2000-2020. His first book was selected at the Caracas International Book Fair in November 2008 for a Spanish edition (title: Equilibrio en el Tercer Milenio).


"Revitalising Indian Democracy" by Maj Gen. Vinod Saighal, published by Gyan Books Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi can be ordered from the following online sites:

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By Vinod Saighal


In taped interviews to an Afghan interrogator, two Afghans and three Pakistanis who were among 21 people arrested earlier in 2006 described their roles in the attacks, which killed at least 70 people, most of them Afghan civilians but also international peacekeepers, a Canadian diplomat and a dozen Afghan police officers and soldiers. In the tape, the men described a fairly low-budget network that begins with the recruitment of young bombers in the sprawling Pakistani port city of Karachi. The bombers are moved to safe houses in the border towns of Quetta and Chaman, and then transferred into Afghanistan, where they are provided with cars and explosives and sent out to find a target.
Disproportionality works against the forces tackling terrorism, especially terrorism of the type taken up by radical Islamists in several countries. By now most people are fairly well acquainted with the terror breeding facilities that were set up in Pakistan and Afghanistan right up to the allied invasion of Afghanistan, following the 11/9/2001 attacks on the USA. While the Jihad factories might have collapsed in Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul in October 2001, there was hardly any let up in selected areas of Pakistan, which continue to churn out fanatical, zombie-like students in large numbers in their madrassas. The numbers of potential Jihadis can now be reckoned in the hundreds of thousands, if not in the millions, because these institutions have since spread to many other parts of the subcontinent and beyond.
(HT World, Thursday, February 16, 2006, Page 12. (The New York Times), Pak Blind Eye to Afghan bombings)

The streamlined production facilities for churning out young, radicalized, possibly misanthropic students in large numbers is not a costly exercise seeing the ready availability of young recruits from families, which although impoverished, produce children in large numbers. The average size of such families being six or seven, they are ever ready to send one, two or more children to the madrassas where they are clothed, fed and taught elementary counting besides writing in Urdu and Arabic in order to learn the Quran by rote. Not all of the products coming out of these madrassas would make high caliber terrorists. After very strict weeding out even if two or three were to be found fit for undertaking the type of terrorist strikes, including suicide missions that the world has come to dread the final count would still be impressive. With variations for time, place, or the country where Jihad factories are located the cost of training one potential terrorist is not likely to exceed twenty thousand rupees, especially in the poorer districts of Pakistan. This works out to less than US $500 per recruit at the production site. Thereafter, translocation to other countries and proper kitting out for the task could add to the cost by several hundred or even a few thousand dollars. Except for very exceptional cases the total cost would not exceed US $5000.

Taking the case now of the countries that are involved in the battle against global terrorism it will be seen that as compared to the training of an average Jihadi for carrying out terrorism acts the cost of training the average soldier involved in combating this menace would be far higher. In the case of the armies of most of the countries in Asia, for example India, The Philippines or Indonesia it could be a factor of 10 or 20. That is to say that if the cost of training an average Jihadi for undertaking terror missions works out to $5000, the cost of training an average combatant in the countries mentioned could work out to between 50,000 to 100,000 US dollars. In the case of the USA and some of the western democracies, however, the cost increase could be a factor between 50 and 100, especially when training of Special Forces is taken into account. These cost differentials continue even for persons rendered hors de combat. To elaborate: an injured Jihadi would be taken clandestinely to some sympathetic medical practitioner and operated upon in the most rudimentary fashion. In case of death the burial costs would be minimal. Terminal benefits to the family of the deceased would be a few hundred thousand rupees, equivalent to $4000 approximately. For impoverished families in Pakistan, that offer up their children for such activities, even half that amount would be considered a windfall.
Match this amount of approximately $4,000 in case of injury or death for the Jihadi with the cost that would be incurred for a US soldier who becomes a casualty. For serious injuries the cost of evacuation (normally by helicopter) to an advanced field hospital and subsequently to a facility in Europe or USA, plus the cost of treatment would work out to a differential factor between 1,000 and 10,000. For serious injuries or death the pension and terminal benefits would be an order of magnitude higher than those in the case of an injured or dying Jihadi.

The next item to be considered in this category is the cost of maintaining a Jihadi in the field as compared to a US or western soldier. Taking the Afghanistan or Iraq theaters the cost of maintaining a Jihadi in the field for one year would seldom go beyond $1000, whereas the cost of maintaining a western soldier for the same period would go up by a factor of about 100 or so depending upon the location of the soldier or his unit. Here again, Special Forces come into a separate category.
So far the comparisons worked out related only to the training and deployment of the adversaries. We now have to consider the cost differential relating to combat scenarios.

Combat Scenarios
We move next to the cost evaluation disparities in ‘live’ engagements between terrorist teams and the US or NATO forces combating them. The disparity resulting from suicide missions will be taken separately at the end. Sporadic engagements between Jihadi type elements and the US forces and allies are taking place practically every day in Afghanistan and Iraq. While there may be similarities in the type of attacks carried out by the Jihadi elements in Afghanistan and Iraq the terrain conditions obtaining being very dissimilar the response patterns also vary considerably. In Afghanistan a typical incident could take any of the following forms: an IED being set off along a route where the US or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) teams have to pass; a mortar attack at an installation or small-sized post; ambush; or hit and run operations launched from terrain that would be difficult to negotiate by foreign forces. The difficulty in terrain negotiation in mountainous country stems both from lack of the type of familiarity that local inhabitants have as also from the type of equipment used by foreign forces. In a typical ambush or hit and run operation a handful of Jihadis fire a few rockets and mortar rounds on a US convoy or position. The latter could be a temporary halting place or post occupied by a platoon-sized force. The initiative almost invariably being with the attacker (the regrouped Taliban) the opening shots in the form of various type of Small Arms (SA) would be fired from well-selected positions on the mountainside overlooking the convoy or the post. By now the retaliation procedure having also been perfected to a fine art by the US forces, the retaliation is swift. There is immediate fire in very heavy volumes by the post or the convoy attacked with integral weapons. Simultaneously the call goes out for armed helicopters and aircraft strikes. Without going into further details, tabulation can be made of the cost of the exchange to the two sides. In the case of the attackers, surprise being with the attackers, few, if any casualties would be suffered by them, because after letting off their initial volleys the Taliban escape to a more sheltered position or simply melt away. The cost of the attack on US forces to the Taliban would not normally exceed $100. It must be noted here that there is no dearth of arms and ammunition of all types in Afghanistan. Weapons and munitions had been dumped or sent in by the Russians, Americans, Iranians and the Pakistanis in huge quantities over the years. Even now the pipeline in manpower and war-materiel from Pakistan is intact, Pakistan’s frontline status in the war on terrorism notwithstanding. The cost of response to even the most elementary form of attack by a handful of Taliban fighters on a US convoy or post could exceed a million dollars.

The retaliatory US exchange would normally include the following: thousands of rounds of automatic fire, dozens of rounds of rocket and mortar fire, several rounds of tank fire, hundreds of rounds of artillery fire, plus munitions and missiles unleashed from the attack helicopters, and bombs and munitions dropped by aircraft. To this not inconsiderable fire power of all types that would have been expended has to be added the fuel cost for the helicopters and aircraft called in for close support. Even without taking into consideration personnel or vehicle casualties that may have resulted in the US force - generally caught off guard, the initiative being with the enemy - the cost disparity might work out to about one is to one million. It could become several millions should some persons become casualties or if a tank or helicopter were to be destroyed.

Coming to Iraq the situation is different. Firstly, the terrain and engagement patterns vary considerably. Much of the country is desert-like and flat, especially where the main fighting is concentrated in the Sunni triangle. While ambushes to road convoys and IED explosions can take place almost anywhere, insurgent type attacks on US forces or their allies are mostly in built up areas. As opposed to Afghanistan the casualties inflicted on US soldiers, in personnel and equipment have generally been much higher. Again, varying greatly from Afghanistan, the retaliatory fire from US forces is often of far greater intensity and longer duration. The weapons mix is also different because in Iraq the insurgents often get into buildings from where they are prepared to engage their opponents in prolonged skirmishes. The savage bombing that follows results in massive infrastructure damage. If the infrastructure damage costs were to be included the cost differential for each skirmish between the insurgents and the US forces could work out to well over 10 million to one in US dollar terms. Excluding infrastructure damage the cost would still go up by an additional factor of three to five compared to Afghanistan.

Suicide missions belong to a separate category for several reasons. To begin with retaliatory fire is neither possible in most cases nor would it be required because the target self-destructs along with whatever other carnage that might have taken place by way of the number of people killed or wounded and the other damage resulting from the detonations caused by the suicide bomber.

The analysis given above clearly brings out that over a period of time the elements indulging in terror attacks against US or Western forces are able to extract phenomenal costs from their adversaries, which purely in US dollar terms result in adverse ratios varying from one is to one million or one is to several million. Of late the number of incidents, which were already high in Iraq, have increased in Afghanistan as well. Besides manpower losses which the Western democracies can ill afford - and their opponents afford ad infinitum - the financial bleeding that takes place is something that the US and its allies can ignore only at their peril. It does not mean that technological superiority is given the go by. It indicates, however, a change in military as well as geopolitical strategy. At the operational level it requires a radical re-think in local level initiatives and the tactics adopted by US forces and their allies in the field.

Taliban terror crippling Afghan Schools
Approximately 165 schools and colleges have been burnt down or forced to close so far by resurgent Taliban and their Islamist allies. Five years after the end of the Afghan war the Taliban seem to be back with a vengeance, one of their main targets being the country’s education system. Educationists feel that the campaign is intended, to terrorise families into keeping children uneducated, unemployable, and a recruitment pool for the Islamists. Teachers are the main targets. Some have been beheaded, others shot in front of their classes. One was killed while attending his father’s funeral. They have declared that only madrassas meeting their approval will be allowed to operate. One of the attacks was on Kartilaya High in the center of Lashkar Gar, the provincial capital of Helmand, which has 4,200 pupils, about half of them girls. Something similar is being attempted in Kashmir and other parts of the subcontinent. Schools are burned down, teachers beheaded and the students dealt with severely for disobeying the fiats of the radicals. Rebuilding the schools becomes a costly proposition.

Reports from the tribal areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan suggest that the tribesmen fighting against the Pakistan Army could be going from strength to strength. In fact, they could be expanding their influence in adjoining districts as well. According to most analysts the situation in Pakistan’s tribal badlands could be fast spiraling out of control. The Islamic radicals in Waziristan can be seen to be a part of a fast-spreading pan-Islamic movement of radical groups opposed to all those whom they consider to be enemies of Islam. The fight against the forces of Kufr lead by America is seen to be a long drawn out one. They are vehemently opposed to the Pakistan Army’s assistance to USA in the War on Terror and might not even be satisfied with the ouster of US forces from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pakistan Army who were the progenitors of the Jihadi groups are slowly losing their hold on them, after having empowered them politically in some of the states as also in the Pakistan assembly at the cost of the mainstream political parties. Presently, the Pakistan Army continues to be the strongest force in Pakistan. Gradually, it might end up by ceding its preeminence and becoming the equal if not the junior partner of the Jihadis. A future reversal along these lines of the patron-client relationship between the Pakistan Army and the Jihadis could destabilize the entire region. In the not too distant future it could also become the motive force for revitalizing and further radicalizing the Muslim ummat worldwide.

In examining disproportionality ratios between the dispensers of global terror and the forces deployed to counter it worldwide, added security costs that have gone up considerably in several domains have to be factored. These relate to heightened surveillance at airports, railways and bus terminuses, ports and dockyards, nuclear plants, vital bridges and installations, water supplies and so many other areas of enhanced vulnerability for civilian populations. Around the world, increased security has been provided to persons considered vulnerable to targeting by terrorists or their agents. Many businesses have seen their expenses go up considerably due to increased insurance costs. The case of airlines and shipping lines has been well documented. If all the costs that have gone up due to terror strikes, especially after 9/11, are taken together the total cost worldwide could conceivably run into tens of billions of dollars, possibly exceeding fifty billion dollars annually. It has also to be noted that these are recurring costs that are likely to continue till well into the future. Putting it all together the adverse ratios that were already very high for governments and security forces dealing with terrorists go up by several orders of magnitude, if the entire spectrum of enhanced global security is taken into account. Terrorists win on two counts: massive damage to civilians and property by the acts of terror plus the disproportionality alluded to in the earlier paragraphs.

Since March 2003, the monthly cost of the war in Iraq has risen from $4.4 billion to $7.1 billion, which means that the war could cost $266 billion more than originally projected - and ultimately reach $1.2 trillion. Put in another way, Americans so far have been paying approximately $46 million per Al Qaeda operative killed. It is part of the reason for the soaring budget costs of the Defense Department. In 2002 it was $310 billion. In 2005 it swelled to $420.6 billion. The well-known Levy Institute estimates that the United States will owe foreigners $8 trillion by 2008 - a hefty 60% of its gross domestic product.

Once the war-spending bill is passed, military and diplomatic costs will have reached $101.8 billion in fiscal year 2006, up from $87.3 billion in 2005, $77.3 billion in 2004 and $51 billion in 2003, the year of the invasion, according to congressional analysts. Even if a gradual troop withdrawal were to begin in 2006, war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to rise by $371 billion during the phase-out, the report said, citing a congressional Budget Office study. When factoring in costs of the war in Afghanistan, the $811 billion total for both wars would have far exceeded the inflation-adjusted $549 billion cost of the Vietnam War. The report details how operations, maintenance and procurement costs have surged to $88 billion this year from $50 billion in 2004, citing rising expenditures for body armor, oil and gasoline; equipment maintenance; and training and equipping Afghan and Iraqi security forces. War-related investment costs have more than tripled since 2003, to $24 billion from $7 billion, as money has been spent on armored vehicles, radios, sensors and night-vision goggles, as well as on equipment for reorganized U.S. Army and Marine Corps units. “These reasons are not sufficient, however, to explain the level of increases,” the report says.

The Wall Street journal.
April 28 – May 1, 2006.

The Iraq war has already cost the US $320bn, according to a new authoritative report  – and even if a troop withdrawal were to begin in 2006, the conflict is set to be more expensive than the Vietnam War, a generation ago. The estimate, circulated by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, can only increase unease over the US presence in Iraq, whose direct costs now run at some $6bn a month, or $200m a day, with no end in sight. The Bush administration has refused to provide any specific overall figure for the war’s cost. However even if everything were to go relatively smoothly, costs until a phase-out is completed could top $370bn. This would make the Iraq conflict, into its fourth year in 2006, more expensive in financial terms than the Vietnam War, which lasted eight years.

Vietnam claimed 58,000 American lives, far more than the almost 3,000 lost in Iraq thus far. But in today’s dollars it cost ‘only’ $549bn, much less than $690bn for Iraq, and a projected combined $811bn bill of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In January 2006 a study by Joseph Stiglitz, the Columbia University economist and former Nobel Prize winner, and the Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes reckoned the conflict could ultimately cost $2 trillion, if all factors were to be taken into account. These include the long term healthcare costs for the 16,000 US soldiers already wounded in the conflict, and other indirect or hidden costs such as the rise in the price of oil, the need to finance larger budget deficits, higher recruiting costs and losses to the economy caused by the wounded.
The Statesman, 1 May 2006, by Rupert Cornwell, The Independent.

Since 2001 over 400 coalition and NATO-led troops have been killed, half of them in the past 18 months. As in Iraq, more and more have fallen victim to remote-controlled bombs and suicide attacks. It was always said of Afghans that they were not the suicidal type – until, in a dozen blasts last year, it turned out that they were. Arabs, Central Asians and, especially, Pakistanis have also blown themselves up.
Fortunately, their efforts have had limited success, but the Taliban seem to be unconcerned about their own losses. They have recently readopted the tactic of massing several scores of their fighters in ambushes, knowing that most would be killed.

“ The world must find a better way to tackle the terrorism afflicting Afghanistan or the West will suffer again”, president Hamid Karzai said after more US soldiers died in clashes with the Taliban. “The US-led ‘war on terror’ launched after the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks in the United States has largely been limited to Afghan soil but should be extended to the sources of terrorism. The international community needs to ‘reassess the manner in which the war on terror is conducted’. Karzai added that he had been in discussions with Afghanistan’s partners about a “change of approach”.
“We can’t tolerate it forever… in the past three weeks five, six hundred people have died in the country. We want an end to this, a basic end to this.”
(The Times of India, June 24, 2006)

Several years earlier, CIA operatives had independently come to similar conclusions. “We’ve got to change the rules,” the CIA’s bin Laden unit chief had argued in the aftermath. It was time for the agency to try to break the policy stalemate about the Taliban. Al Qaeda was growing, and its sanctuary in Afghanistan allowed ever more ambitious operations. Within the CIA and at interagency White House sessions the Counter terrorist Center officers spoke starkly. “Al Qaeda is training and planning in Afghanistan, and their goal is to destroy the United States,” they declared, as one official recalled it. “Unless we attack their safe haven, they are going to get continually stronger and stronger.

(Daring me to Kill Them, Page no. 537-538. Ghost Wars by Steve Coll)
The logic a few years down the line can be applied in reverse. Today it is the jehadi menace growing in the sanctuaries on the other side of the border in Pakistan that threatens the stability of Afghanistan. It will continue to grow and exact heavier and heavier toll on NATO and ISAF soldiers unless the trans border sanctuaries are taken care of.

On another occasion a UK police commissioner speaking in a Southeast Asian capital presciently said that “the threat is very grim, there’s no doubt about it. There are, as we speak, people in the United Kingdom planning further atrocities”.
Yet when the conspiracy was unearthed a month later in August the potential tragedy that was prevented by rounding scores of people readying themselves for a chemical attack in several commercial aircraft the flight disruptions and heightened security measures had already added hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to the authorities and to commercial enterprises and individuals due to the unforeseen dislocation. The multiplication of costs whenever such incidents take place, are astronomical compared to the outlays of the perpetrators of the horrors.
(Sir Ian Blair Police Commissioner. The Nation, Bangkok, Saturday, July 8, 2006)

By not going to the source as Hamid Karzai suggested the countries fighting the jehadi menace would always invariably remain at the receiving end. USA along with its partners will have to set up far more effective networks to fight potential terrorists at the source rather than relying on unreliable allies of an earlier era. Intelligence operatives have long felt that the CIA and the White House had become prisoners of their alliances with Saudi Arabia and Pakistani intelligence. America was in a war against a dangerous terrorist network. As it waged that war, it was placing far too much faith in unreliable allies. The CIA needed to break out of its lazy dependence on liaisons with corrupt, Islamist-riddled intelligence services such as the ISI and the Saudi General Intelligence Department, argued one of the specialists working in the sector during the years when the Taliban were running the show in Afghanistan. If it did not, he had insisted, the CIA and the United States would pay a price.
(The Kingdom’s Interests, Page no. 415. Ghost Wars by Steve Coll).

Others in the US saw terrorism fundamentally as “a challenge to be managed, not solved”. It was felt that terrorist attacks seemed likely to become a permanent feature of American experience. The metaphor of waging “war” against terrorism was objected to because “it is a war that cannot be won” and also “unlike most wars, it has neither a fixed set of enemies nor the prospect of coming to closure.” A better analogy than war might be “the effort by public health authorities to control communicable diseases.” A lesson of American counter terrorism efforts since the 1980s was that the threat could not be defeated, only “reduced, attenuated, and to some degree controlled.” Striving for zero terrorist attacks would be as unhealthy for American foreign policy as pushing for zero unemployment would be for the economy, one expert believed. In a broad sense, the expert’s outlook accorded with Clinton’s: Terrorism was an inevitable feature of global change.
(bid.We are at War, page no. 433)

At another place in the book it is mentioned that Paul Wolfowitz, Bush’s influential deputy defense secretary, had concluded by then that the war against al Qaeda was something different from going after individual acts of terrorism. This was a change from how terrorism had been managed the last time the Republicans held power. Wolfowitz could see, as he recalled it, that “it really does involve all the elements of national power, that it’s not just something for the intelligence community alone.’ As to the regional questions, he concluded it was impossible to destroy al Qaeda “without recognizing the role that the government of Afghanistan is playing.
(Many Americans are Going to Die, page no. 565. GHOST WARS: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll, Penguin books).
Paul Wolfowitz logic again goes to show that a few years down the line the situation in Afghanistan cannot be stabilized unless the threat from across the border is tackled. Otherwise the casualties to the coalition forces would keep mounting at disproportionately minimal cost to the opponents.

Iraq has already cost America more than $250 billion, and economists are now debating the future price tag. Estimates of the eventual cost range from just over $400 billion to more than $2 trillion.
How high will the price tag go? Harvard University’s Linda Bilmes and Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz (a Nobel laureate and chief economic adviser in Bill Clinton’s administration), reckon that the war could cost America an eye-catching $2,24 trillion through 2015. Scott Wallsten and Katrina Kosec, in a study for the AEI-Brookings Joint Centre, predict that the war will eventually cost America $540 billion-670 billion. (On the AEI-Brookings website, they have also posted an interactive calculator that lets visitors make their own forecasts) A third study, by three economists at the University of Chicago’s business school – Steven Davis, Kevin Murphy and Robert Topel – and based on what was known before the war, gives seven scenarios for it, of which the likeliest two (with some hindsight) suggest a final cost between $410 billion and $630 billion.

Why is the Bilmes/Stiglitz estimate so high? Partly because they attribute a number of economic ills – oil prices, interest costs and foregone government projects – to the war in Iraq. These seem questionable claims. Oil prices are indeed much higher now than in early 2003, but the war’s impact on global oil supplies has been relatively small; a surging world economy has driven up demand. Including the interest payments on America’s Iraq spending is also strange.

Stripping out these “macroeconomic effects” still leaves a forecast of between $840 billion and $1.19 trillion through 2015, much more expensive than the others. Two of the studies come up with similar tallies for soldiers’ pay, weapons, ammunition and supplies; but the estimates for these from Ms. Bilmes and Mr. Stiglitz are about $100 billion or so higher.
Casualties – the human half of the “blood and treasure” equation – are also a big part of the cost to America, and all three studies treat them as such. Efforts to attach dollar figures to human life offend some people, but governments and courts do it often for insurance cases, disability payments, safety regulation and so forth.
The Chicago economists treat these in a similar way to Mr. Wallsten and Ms. Kosec, attaching a cost to every soldier killed in Iraq of $6m-7m. Both studies assume an average cost of $1.3m for every wounded soldier. Ms. Bilmes and Mr. Stiglitz, again going further, add on to this another $3 billion annually that they expect the government to spend on veteran’s care over the next 20-40 years, and also add another $70 billion –110 billion to the AEI-Brookings Study’s injury costs. Some economists say this is double counting; Ms. Bilmes says it is not. Her paper is not clear enough to judge.
(The Economist, April 8th 2006)

The New York Times, December 31, 2002. “According to CBO’s estimates, from the time U.S. forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, $290 billion has been allocated for activities in Iraq. Additional costs over the 2007-2016 period would total an estimated $202 billion under the first [optimistic] scenario, and $406 billion under the second one.” Congressional Budget Office, July 13, 2006.
(The Hindu, July 13, 2006 by Paul Krugman)

That the Taliban are on a comeback trail in Afghanistan is no longer in doubt. They seem to have moved into southern Afghanistan in a big way, assassinating opponents, ambushing military patrols and generally terrorizing parts of the population opposed to them. Many US experts and defense analysts have felt that the resurgent Taliban pose a greater threat to Hamid Karzai’s government at the present time than at any point since the fall of Kabul in October 2001. The insurgency in southern Afghanistan appears to be a loose alliance of Taliban fighters, Al-Qaeda supporters and followers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Taliban commander Mullah Dadallah reportedly told Al Jazeera in May 2006 that the insurgents could call on 12000 fighters. As to how and why Afghanistan seems to be again coming under the sway of the (vanquished) Taliban is a question that requires a fresh look. There is hardly any doubt that the Taliban could not have made a comeback without the tacit support of the Pakistan military establishment or, as is generally suggested by various observers, without the active help of sympathizers and rogue elements in Pakistan’s ISI. For several years from 2002 to date the US has been overlooking many Pakistani transgressions. Pakistan even floated the idea of moderate Taliban for consumption by Hamid Karzai and his US backers.

There is now a belief in some circles that Osama bin Laden was allowed to escape from the Tora Bora complex after its saturation bombing. Instead of the few thousand US marines that were positioned there for mopping-up, the actual mopping up was entrusted to local Afghan warlords. Osama bin Laden, it is said, crossed into Pakistan and was whisked way by the Pakistanis, who reportedly even provided him emergency medical care. There can be little doubt that some sort of a tacit understanding was arrived at between the State Department headed by General Colin Powell and President Musharraf. It is for the same reason that the biggest nuclear proliferator of all times, A.Q. Khan was given a pardon by the Pakistani President and not handed over to the US authorities. He is still not being made available for questioning by US experts and, according to some knowledgeable sources the proliferation goes on.
The deal that might have been struck with Pervez Musharraf – which now appears to have gone sour after the change of guard at the State Department – apparently included the disarming of some of the Afghan warlords. In the case of the militias that formed the Northern Alliance the removal of heavy weapons was completed very satisfactorily. Such was not the case for the warlords operating in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Pakistan had invested heavily in Washington lobbies to ensure that the 9/11 Commission heads – both the Republican and the Democrat heads – removed the most critical references to Pakistan’s complicity from the final commission text that was released for publication. Several governments would now be interested, paying sums equivalent to those paid by Pakistan, perhaps more, to find out details of the omitted portions. This input would be of crucial importance to the Hamid Karzai government in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile the only effective force that would have been in a position to counter the Taliban – the erstwhile militias forming the Northern Alliance, separately or conjointly - has been effectively disbanded, even demolished under American pressure. Should the US forces decide to pull out of Afghanistan or considerably reduce their presence, the Taliban would be able to occupy most areas of Afghanistan without let or hindrance. The NATO and ISAF bases would continue to remain in isolated splendor in Kabul and a few other places. Their capacity to go after the Taliban pro-actively would become limited. The Taliban cadres, with the clandestine backing of the Pakistan establishment, would not face much difficulty in extending its sway over large swathes of Afghanistan, even in the north. Central Asian republics would again be under severe threat.

Copyright @ Vinod Saighal
March 2007

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