Former Mossad Chief Proposes China’s Mediation in Iran-Israel Relations


In 2000, Ariel Sharon made a Jewish ‘pilgrimage’ to what he called the Temple Mount.  What Muslims call Haram al-Sharif, Islam’s third holiest shrine.  I’m not aware of any senior Israeli politician who had ever done so.  It was a deliberate provocation.  A declaration of control and sovereignty by Israel of Muslim holy sites.  This commenced the Second Intifada, in which thousands of Israelis and Palestinians died.

But this extraordinary act of incitement enabled him to win election as prime minister in 2001.  Taking stock after victory, he had inherited a Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy from the previous prime minister.  In 2002, Sharon decided to cashier Halevy in favor of a Mossad boss who, he famously said, would “have a knife between his teeth.”  So began the bloody region of Dagan, who was responsible for, among other things, the disastrous Dubai assassination of Mahmoud al Mabouh.

Halevy, though no wallflower, was known as an especially analytical and pragmatic figure, something antithetical to Sharon’s brash personal style.  Unfortunately for Israel, the country’s politics have turned progressively more extremist since that period.  Though Halevy has remained ever thoughtful and contrarian in his views.

In a recent report in Haaretz, he wrote an especially provocative column related to the Saudi-Iran diplomatic breakthrough.  While other commentators (including me) were toting up winners and loser, Halevy had something totally different in mind.  He had an idea. One that would benefit Israel immensely if translated into action.  The problem, of course, is that there are no thoughtful, pragmatic figures in Israeli politics who could implement it.

Nevertheless, it deserves a hearing.  I’ve translated the last few paragraphs from the original Hebrew version of the article:

…This should be the moment Israel examines the possibility of taking advantage of this development.

It should initiate a cautious examination of the possibiity of an Israeli overture toward Iran. It’s worth noting that only a few years ago Iran carried out a missile attak against a major Saudi oil field.

And that Iran continues to intervene in the southern Arabian peninsula [Yemen]. Iranian-Saudi hostility was fierce only day before yesterday. Yet now China has succeeded in bringing two sworn enemies together to resume relations. Halevy, though no wallflower, was known as an especially analytical and pragmatic figure, something antithetical to Sharon’s brash personal style.  Unfortunately for Israel, the country’s politics have turned progressively more extremist since that period.  Though Halevy has remained ever thoughtful and contrarian in his views.

The sentiment is clear: despite decades of Israeli-Iranian hatred and venom dating back to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, enemies may become, if not friends, then at least not-enemies.  Many have stated (including me) that Israel and Iran share much in the realms of technology, innovation and even history.  Among other things, Iran has the largest Jewish community in the Middle East.  A normalization would permit not only commerce, but a cross-fertilization in many areas.

But of course, the most important need right now is to cool tensions between them.

Amir Oren, one of Israel’s most thoughtful journalists, added his own thoughts to Halevy’s:

If, he says, Israel’s ultimate goal is to restrict the development of nuclear weapons among the Muslim-Arab states of the region (the Saudis as well as Iran), then Israel should actually welcome the Saudi-Iran pact, though with a dose of skepticism.  Sometimes it’s a good thing to break the mold and let the liquid pour out.

Despite Netanyahu celebrating the supposed new alliance with the Saudis and even predicting Israel too would commence diplomatic relations, the Saudis were, Oren believes, actually afraid that they would become a target of Iran should Israel have attacked.  That’s why they, in effect, bought themselves a second insurance policy.  The Saudis understood that the US was no longer its inviolable security guarantor. So it took the bold step of looking the issue squarely in the eye and deciding to take an entirely different tack.  It went right to the heart of the matter: Iran.

This left Israel more or less out in the cold.  All the more so in that Netanyahu, as most prime ministers before him, rejected the 2002 Saudi peace initiative which could have resolved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict decades ago.  Would he embrace it today, he would likely obtain his heart’s desire, diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.  But he cannot take this path for fear it would cost him the support of the Israeli hard-right, indispensable to his political base.  That, in effect, leaves Netanyahu and Israel frozen in time, while the Saudis pursue their own, more pragmatic independent path.

When, or should I say if Israel recovers from its current national nightmare, it would behoove it to adopt the flexibility and pragmatism of the Saudis.  It could approach China (another country Bibi has spent enormous effort to cultivate as a buffer to the US), fresh from its major diplomatic achievement, to undertake another major effort.  In return for Iran ceasing hostilities against Israel, the latter would end its own attempts to overthrow the Iranian Republic.  It may not be love.  But it would be co-existence.  And it would obviate the necessity for Iran to pursue a nuclear weapon.  At least, it would make Iran much more amenable to a negotiated agreement to restrain its own nuclear program, just as the JCPOA did until Trump tossed it in the trash heap in 2017.  It’s worth a shot. And costs nothing.

The Bitter Game: Sri Lanka Police in Crisis


by Our Defence Affairs Editor

It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles. – Niccolo Machiavelli

The current power struggle within the Sri Lanka Police is a cause for concern and highlights the need for stability within one of the largest state institutions and prime law enforcement agencies. The bitter game that has always existed within the police force has now reached a pathetic level, with seniors fighting like “kilkenny cats“. With the current Inspector General of Police (IGP) set to retire on March 20th, the appointment of a new IGP by the constitutional council is impending and the situation is becoming increasingly critical. However, there is uncertainty surrounding whether the current IGP will receive an extension or if a new man will come to administrate the police.

According to the Police Ordinance, No. 16 of 1865, it is the President who has the power to nominate the new IGP based on recommendations. As we approach this critical moment, it is important to take a brief retrospective look at the journey of the current IGP, Chandana Wickramaratne. He assumed duties as the 35th IGP in Sri Lanka in November 2020, after briefly serving as the Acting IGP. He was appointed at a time when Sri Lanka was navigating through one of the most difficult periods in its recent history.

The Easter Sunday bombings, carried out by lunatics who distorted globally accepted religious principles, claimed the lives of over 260 unarmed civilians, including foreigners. After working closely with local law enforcement agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States conducted an exhaustive investigation and determined the cause behind the attacks and true culprits but several NGOs, social groups, and particular political parties continued to promote baseless conspiracy theories through their rhetoric.

The response of society and responsible parties to the Easter Sunday bombings and subsequent violence targeting Muslims was not only pathetic but also showed the immaturity of our society. However, the police force under the leadership of Wickramaratne was able to manage the situation without disastrous consequences. This was a testament to his leadership skills and the professionalism of the police force. His leadership was again put to the test when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country. The entire country was put on lockdown, and the police were left with the task of enforcing the lockdown and assisting in tracing infectious patients. They worked tirelessly, from police constable to IGP, to quarantine those who were infected with the help of health officials and provide essential supplies to those who were quarantined in their homes or elsewhere. Many police officers were unable to visit their loved ones for months. Despite facing tremendous difficulties, the police were able to keep the country stable during this exceptional time.

After the pandemic, the country started witnessing a series of protests that eventually led to the ousting of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The pandemic had turned into an economic plague, and people were forced to stand in long queues for daily essentials. During this precarious time, every person in a police uniform may not have been perfect, but most of them remained committed to maintaining social stability and ensuring law and order in the country. 

In addition to the challenges faced by the police force in Sri Lanka, it is also important to note the challenges faced by individual police officers. Policemen and policewomen are often underpaid and overworked, with long hours and difficult working conditions. They are also often subject to verbal and physical abuse from members of the public, which can have a detrimental effect on their mental health and well-being. Another issue that the police force in Sri Lanka has faced is a lack of diversity. The force is predominantly male and Sinhalese, which can lead to a lack of trust and cooperation from other ethnic and religious groups. The current IGP has made efforts to address this issue by promoting officers from different backgrounds and implementing policies to ensure that the force is more representative of the wider community.

Despite these efforts, there is still much work to be done to improve the police force in Sri Lanka. The appointment of a new IGP will be an important opportunity to continue these efforts and address the challenges faced by the police force. It is essential that the new IGP is appointed based on merit and that they are committed to upholding the principles of public policing, as outlined by Sir Robert Peel.

Sir Robert Peel’s 9 principles of policing, also known as the Peelian principles, were first introduced in 1829 in the United Kingdom, and they still hold significant relevance for police departments worldwide, including the Sri Lankan police. These principles serve as a foundation for police officers to maintain public trust and demonstrate impartial service to the law. It is vital that police officers are continually trained and educated in these principles and other basic fundamentals to ensure that they are implemented effectively in all aspects of their work.

The decision to appoint a new IGP or extend the tenure of the current IGP lies in the hands of the President and other key players. It is a crucial decision that will determine the future of the Sri Lankan police and its effectiveness in maintaining law and order in the country. If the President decides to extend the tenure of the current IGP, it will provide stability and continuity to the police force, which is essential for effective policing. It will also be a recognition of the hard work and dedication of the current IGP in navigating the police force through some of the most challenging times in recent history.

On the other hand, if the President decides to appoint a new IGP, it is essential that the selection process is based on merit, and the new IGP is a person of integrity and competence who can lead the police force effectively. The new IGP should be committed to upholding the Peelian principles of policing and demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law, which is vital for maintaining public trust and confidence in the police force.

In this context, the role of the IGP in leading the police force during such a challenging time cannot be overstated. Chandana Wickramaratne’s tenure as IGP has been marked by his efforts to maintain law and order, combat drug peddlers, and promote national security as well as institutional re-engineering. His leadership has been instrumental in ensuring the safety and security of the citizens of Sri Lanka.

As the police force prepares for a new leader, it is imperative that the continuity of leadership and stability be maintained. The Sri Lanka Police must remain a reliable and effective institution that upholds the rule of law, protects human rights, and ensures the safety and security of all Sri Lankan citizens. It is hoped that the power struggle within the Sri Lanka Police is resolved in a peaceful and amicable manner and that the new IGP, whether it be Chandana Wickramaratne with a new extension or someone else, is able to lead the police force with integrity, professionalism, and a commitment to the safety and security of all Sri Lankans.

In the current challenging time of social upheavals, it is more important than ever for the police to act with responsibility and accountability. Police officers should not act as agents of a select few or any political party, but rather as protectors of the law and public servants of the people. They should work towards building trust with the communities they serve, and strive to maintain law and order while upholding the human rights and dignity of all individuals.

Furthermore, the police should prioritize community policing and work closely with local communities to address the root causes of crime and social unrest. This means understanding the needs and concerns of the community, being responsive to their requests, and building partnerships to address issues such as poverty, inequality, and lack of access to basic services. By doing so, the police can create a more harmonious and stable society, where everyone feels safe and valued.

Sri Lanka: From National Security to Soothsayers — Revisiting Karannagoda Report


by Our Defence Affairs Editor

The recent revelation of leaked pages from the Karannagoda report has sparked a lot of interest among the Sri Lankan public. One particular aspect that caught everyone’s attention was the involvement of a well-known soothsayer named Gnana Maniyo. Gnana Maniyo, a former hospital attendant turned soothsayer, has attracted a significant following among corrupt and wicked individuals in the country by promising good fortune. Despite criticisms against her, she has managed to accumulate wealth and power by hook or crook. Many leading politicians and businessmen have sought her protection and guidance, and it is rumoured that she even advised then the highest politician on which side to support when Russia launched a limited military action on Ukraine to “demilitarize” and “Denazify.” But it is surprising to note, according to the sources with knowledge of this incident, that Gnana Maniyo, despite her influential position, was not even aware of the existence of a country named Ukraine.

However, her success story is one of the best in the history of deception in Sri Lanka. Her rise to power and influence is a testament to her cunning and ability to manipulate people for her own gain.

The leaked pages of the Karannagoda report have shed light on how hard the board of inquiry worked to find the inability of security forces in protecting this soothsayer’s property. Krannagoda’s emotional reaction to Gnana Maniyo’s involvement in the investigation is understandable. It is a tragic reminder of the rot that has set in the country’s political and social structures. The authorities must take steps to curb the influence of such individuals and ensure that the country’s resources are used for the benefit of its citizens. What we believed is that Gnana Maniyo’s story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked power and the need for transparency and accountability in all spheres of life.

As we delve deeper into the Karannagoda report and its findings, we cannot help but question the Admiral of the Fleet’s extra focus on protecting the property of a soothsayer while leaving the residences of many legislators vulnerable to angry protestors. According to the report (point 17 of page 7), over 250 Army personnel were deployed to protect Gnana Maniyo’s house in Anuradhapura, yet they were unable to prevent the damage and arson that occurred. The question that needs to be asked is why such a large number of troops were deployed to protect the property of a single individual, especially one whose profession is considered by many to be fraudulent.

Karannagoda must answer to the nation on which ordinance or legal provision empowered the army to protect the property of a soothsayer instead of blaming security personnel for not protecting hers. It is absurd that a soothsayer would become a pivotal person in the national security of the country while many other narratives were left unattended. The report raises serious questions about the priorities of those in power and their willingness to use state resources to protect the interests of a select few. It is a clear violation of the principles of democracy and accountability, and it is up to the authorities to take swift action to rectify the situation.

Let us not forget that the duty of the armed forces is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation, not the properties of fraudulent soothsayers. It is time for us to demand a clear and honest accounting of the events that led to the deployment of troops to protect Gnana Maniyo’s house and to ensure that such actions are never repeated in the future.

As we argued yesterday, the Karannagoda report has proven that he is the least credible person to be assigned such an important task. The report is a clear indication that he played politics instead of prioritizing the norms and ethics of transparency and impartiality. The findings in the report suggest that the highest naval officer in independent Sri Lanka manipulated a nationally important case to fulfil his desire for vindication. Furthermore, it is important to hold Karannagoda accountable for abusing the power vested in this Board of Inquiry. His actions have tarnished the reputation of the Sri Lankan Navy and the country as a whole.

Should we allow individual political stooges like Karannagoda to use their positions and power to manipulate nationality important cases for their own personal gain? The consequences of such actions can be devastating for the country and its people. The Karannagoda report is a clear indication of the need for greater transparency and accountability of inquirers. It is up to the authorities to take swift action to rectify the situation and to ensure that individuals like Karannagoda are held accountable for their actions.

We must demand answers from our leaders and hold them accountable for their actions. The people of Sri Lanka deserve transparency and fairness, and it is only through collective action and persistent questioning that we can achieve these goals. Only then can we build a better future for Sri Lanka and its people. The people of Sri Lanka deserve better than the current state of affairs, and it is up to all of us to work towards a brighter future.

India: Defence ties with Australia are strong


Wandering through Australia, I’m discovering that our own great Sikhs came in shiploads during the 19th century to fight under Australian officers in World War I. The Brits brought camels from India with Sikh cameleers whom the Australians mistook as Afghans. More Sikhs arrived to set up a base between Brisbane and Sydney establishing banana plantations. Surprisingly they haven’t reached the moon yet.

Fast forward to 1998 to India’s nuclear tests. Australia then was so paranoid about nuclear proliferation that the Sikh Defence Attaché was asked to leave Australia within 24 hours. In a surprising turn of policy two years ago Canberra decided to export uranium to India. On 15 February Defence Secretary, Greg Moriarty announced its ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ nuclear policy. Australia no longer asks strategic bombers whether they are carrying nuclear weapons. US B52 stealth B2 bombers operate from Australian bases to maintain ‘Operation Unpredictability’ dispersing the nuclear triad. The stationing of nuclear weapons in Australia is prohibited under its South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty but the US has traditionally neither confirmed nor denied carriage of nuclear weapons, a policy endorsed by Foreign Minister Penny Wong at a Senate hearing last week where the Greens Senator objected to breach of SPNFZT. Under the highly controversial Australia UK and US (AUKUS) arrangement, Canberra’s nuclear-powered submarine fleet — which canceled the agreement with France to buy its Barracuda design — two already built UK Astute class submarines will be fitted with American subsystems. Australia could have 12 such submarines by 2050. It will become the only non-nuclear state to get US nuclear technology for its submarine fleet. This has generated a big debate on ‘do we need AUKUS’ or whether Australia is rubber-stamping US policy. Australia is already part of the US India Japan QUAD and its Navy has already been part of the Malabar Naval exercises. With the new Albanese government calling up to China and India sitting on the fence, QUAD and Malabar as serious deterrents to China are questionable.

Australia’s new Defence Security Review, authored by former Defence Minister Stephen Smith and former CDS Air Marshal Angus Houston was released last week. Previously defence policy focused on defence of Australia and later, forward defence to the present when the China challenge of uncertainties and ambiguities has covered Australia. A defence expert told me in Sydney that the Chinese tried to strangle Australia and its economic coercion failed miserably. Distance and sea frontiers have made Australia safe and secure. There’s not been a single terrorist attack that makes Australia an attractive destination for trade and investment. However, fears of illegal immigrants have magnified. Last Saturday Foreign Minister S Jaishankar was in Sydney transiting from a visit to Fiji. India-Australia relations are on a high. Canberra considers New Delhi one of its most important partners in the Indo-Pacific. Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020, the Economic Strategy Update in 2022, and Australia India Economic Cooperation Agreement in 2022. The Australian government is setting up the Centre for Australia-India Relations like the Australia India Council set up 30 years ago.

Today 50,000 Indian students are helping the Australian higher education sector rebound after the pandemic. India-Australia defence cooperation traces its origins in the trenches of Gallipoli in World War I. Two agreements underpin defence ties – the 2006 Memorandum of Defence Cooperation; and the 2009 Joint Declaration in Security Cooperation. A joint working group on joint research and military cooperation has been set up. Joint exercises are regularly held between the three services. In 2015, the first formal bilateral naval exercise was held off the coast of Visakhapatnam and these are held every two years. In addition, the Milan fleet review has the Australian Navy participating. A maritime partnership exercise off Perth last year involved several ships and helicopters. IAF Su30 and C17 aircraft participated in Exercise Pitch Black. This was followed by another international Exercise Kakadu 2022. The Australian Navy participated in RIMPAC, an Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022 Exercise.

The focus of India-Australia military cooperation is in the maritime domain in support of an open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific as stated by Defence Minister Richard Marles. Australian High Commissioner in India, Barry O’Farrell has said that joint defence activities had experienced a nearly fourfold increase since 2014. The upgrade of ties was reflected in the recent 2+2 dialogue between Finance and Defence Ministers. The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement entered into force on 29 December 2022 will allow tariff-free trade of 85 to 90 percent of the goods. India-Australia defence ties have come a long way since the expulsion of the Defence Advisor.

Sri Lanka: Karannagoda Report — A Flawed Investigation?


by Our Defence Affairs Editor

The measure of a man is what he does with power. – Plato

The concept of a state is a crucial component of modern society. A state is essentially a structure that is based on a chain of command. This chain of command is what provides the state with its ability to function, as it enables those in positions of power to issue commands that are then carried out by those below them in the hierarchy. The strength of this structure is therefore essential to the success of the state, and any weakness in the chain of command can ultimately lead to the state becoming fragile.

Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, many people do not understand the difference between the state and the government. The government is a temporary body that is elected by the people to govern the state for a certain period of time. Those who are elected are bound to fulfil the public aspirations, but in Sri Lanka, this relationship between the state and the government has become increasingly blurred.

This issue has been highlighted in the recent inquiry report into whether there was any lapse on the part of State Intelligence, Police, and the Armed Forces during the massive anti-government public protest on May 9th 2022 which eventually kicked out the elected president for the first time in history. Strangely, only 65 witnesses were summoned by the committee to have evidence on such a landmark incident. However, the report was issued by a committee comprising former tri-forces commanders and was headed by Sri Lanka’s first-ever Admiral of the Fleet, Wasantha Karannagoda. The 17-page report was first handed over to the President at the end of last year and was later submitted to the Appeal Court on February 23rd. However, the head of the committee, Karannagoda, made a strange move by submitting the report himself to the Appeal Court. Later, a selected number of pages were leaked to the media by an “unknown” party, but the essence of the report has yet to be made public. From what has been reported, the report openly alleges that the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who was then the Army Commander, General Shavendra Silva, had abandoned his responsibilities, which had caused chaos during the protest. Instead of highlighting the overall shortcomings of the whole incident, the focus of the report has been directed towards CDS as the main target.

As mentioned above, this case study is an exemplary one that highlights the importance of understanding the difference between the state and the government. It also highlights the need for state workers to exercise their duties without taking political bias decisions. The state and the government have different functions, and it is crucial that those in positions of power understand this. The government may be temporary, but the state is a permanent fixture in society.

In addition to criticizing the behaviour of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the report also pointed out the behaviour of the Secretary of Defense. However, the Board’s handling of the legal procedures that should have been followed by law enforcement agencies during the public protest has been largely ignored. This has led to criticism of the report for singling out the Secretary of Defense, while largely ignoring the responsibilities of the Secretary to the Law and Order Ministry. It is the Inspector General of Police who should be responsible for requesting the Secretary of Law and Order to deploy the army with the authorization of the Secretary of Defense when the police are unable to handle the situation. We don’t understand how the inquiry board came to the conclusion that CDS has been empowered with such power.  Therefore, the responsibilities of the Board should have been to investigate the nuances of the series of incidents without targeting selected individuals for whatever reasons.

When public outrage erupts against the government, it is the government’s responsibility to address the seriousness of the situation and punish the perpetrators who are responsible for plundering public assets. However, this inquiry report has been criticized for showing indifference to the wrongdoings of legislators within the government while attempting to silence and undermine the voices of the public. This is not only irrational, but it is also a sign of deliberate ignorance of the fundamentals of governance. Despite the report elaborating on the root causes behind the public outrage against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which was unfortunately hijacked by certain political parties later, the commission has pathetically tried to whitewash the injustices of those who first instigate the violence by humiliating the defence apparatus. This has led to further criticism of the report and the Board’s handling of the investigation.

The important issue that has arisen in relation to this inquiry report is the credibility of the report itself. The fact that the report was headed by a person who was arraigned by the court of law for allegedly abducting and killing 11 innocents for ransoms has raised serious questions about the report’s credibility.  The person in question, Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda, was implicated in the abduction and killing of 11 young men during the final stages of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The case is still ongoing, and Admiral Karannagoda has been accused of interfering in the case and intimidating witnesses. Given this background, it is reasonable to question whether Admiral Karannagoda was the appropriate person to lead an investigation into the conduct of the state intelligence, police, and armed forces during the May 2022 public protest.

The fact that only selected pages of the report were leaked to the media has also raised further questions about the report’s credibility. Without access to the full report, it is difficult to determine whether the leaked pages accurately represent the findings of the inquiry. Furthermore, the leak of selected pages has created the impression that certain individuals or groups may be trying to manipulate the narrative to suit their own interests.

It’s possible that someone is scheming against CDS General Shavendra Silva by defaming him, especially since he has taken some controversial actions that have challenged the status quo. As Woodrow Wilson said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” Silva’s actions, including his leadership during the final phase of the Sri Lankan Civil War and his involvement in various post-war initiatives, have made him a polarizing figure. While some may appreciate his efforts to bring about change, others may view his actions as threatening to their interests. Nevertheless, it’s important to evaluate any accusations against him objectively and without bias, to ensure that justice is served fairly and impartially.

As Jesus once said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” The holy words of the son of the Lord highlight the idea that none of us is without fault, and that we should approach others with humility and compassion, rather than judgement and condemnation. This sentiment is particularly relevant in the context of the inquiry report being discussed, which is facing questions of credibility and impartiality. While some may be quick to criticize and assign blame, it’s important to remember that none of us is perfect and that everyone is capable of making mistakes. Rather than casting stones, we should strive to approach this issue with a spirit of understanding and a desire to uncover the truth, without allowing political biases or personal agendas to cloud our judgement. Only by approaching this issue with humility and an open mind can we hope to achieve a fair and just outcome.

Sri Lanka’s Intelligence Agencies: Debunking the Pseudo-Nationalist Narrative


by a Special Defence Correspondent

“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Nationalism and patriotism have the potential to unite a nation and instil a sense of shared identity, but their abuse by those who do not understand the importance of national interests can jeopardize a country’s long-term well-being. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, these concepts have been widely misused for political purposes, making it rare to find genuine nationalists and patriots. Instead, the country is plagued by pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots who exploit public sentiment and national interests for their own personal gain, posing a threat to the country’s future prosperity.

Pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots are individuals who use nationalist rhetoric for their own political gain, without any real understanding of what it means to act in the best interests of the nation. These individuals are often more interested in promoting their own personal agendas than in advancing the greater good of their country.

One of the key dangers posed by these individuals is that they are often willing to play politics with everything, including national security and foreign policy. They may take positions that are popular with their base or that score political points, but that ultimately weaken the country’s position on the world stage. For example, they may oppose important trade agreements or alliances that are critical to the country’s economic or military strength, simply because they do not want to be seen as “weak” or as ceding control to other nations.

Irony is pseudo-nationalists and fake patriots often lack a nuanced understanding of the complexities of international relations. They may take simplistic, black-and-white views of issues, failing to appreciate the subtleties of diplomatic negotiations and compromise. This can lead them to take hardline positions that are ultimately harmful to the country’s long-term interests.

MP Wimal Weerawansa’s recent statement in Parliament claiming that Sri Lanka is at risk of becoming an American colony is a prime example of how pseudo-nationalists can harm a nation’s long-term interests. By making baseless accusations that US officials disarmed Sri Lanka’s intelligence agency, including its Director General, Weerawansa is playing on people’s fears and prejudices instead of offering constructive ideas for the country’s future. Weerawansa’s political opportunism resembles the behaviour described by Samuel Johnson’s famous saying, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Unfortunately, Weerawansa is not the only one to play this game. Unfortunately, Weerawansa is not the only one to play this game. Many politicians, NGO activists, and religious leaders have criticised intelligence agencies and security apparatus without any real understanding of their structures and vital roles in keeping the country safe. In Sri Lanka, people often blame intelligence agencies without recognizing their hard work and limited resources to protect the country from potential dangers.

Moreover, Weerawansa’s claims are not only baseless, but they also show a lack of understanding about how intelligence agencies operate. It is highly unlikely that any foreign country, let alone the US, would demand that another country disarm its intelligence agency. Such a demand would be seen as a violation of national sovereignty and would likely trigger a diplomatic crisis. Instead, visits between intelligence agencies are often conducted in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, with both sides learning from each other and sharing best practices.

Furthermore, by making such claims without any evidence to back them up, Weerawansa is potentially damaging Sri Lanka’s relationships with other countries. Such unfounded accusations can be seen as inflammatory and can lead to a breakdown in trust between nations. This can have serious consequences for Sri Lanka’s foreign policy and its ability to engage in diplomatic negotiations. By playing politics with everything and making baseless claims, such individuals can undermine a country’s relationships with other nations and damage its reputation on the world stage. It is important for citizens to be vigilant against such individuals and to support leaders who are committed to acting in the best interests of the country, rather than advancing their own personal agendas.

Sri Lankan intelligence agencies have demonstrated the importance of cooperation in achieving strategic objectives and fighting common enemies.

Needless to say, cooperation between intelligence agencies is critical for the safety and security of nations around the world. Sharing intelligence and working together to achieve strategic objectives on national interests is a well-known fact. Intelligence cooperation enables nations to fight common enemies such as terrorists and drug traffickers, and it is essential in the fight against transnational organized crime and other threats to national security. Leading intelligence officials from not only the United States but also countries such as India, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia, among others, often visit Sri Lanka due to our country’s commitment to maintaining neutral foreign policies and strategic defence partnerships. We believe that politicians and others who do not fully understand the depth of these partnerships should refrain from making political statements that could potentially cross these boundaries.

As Chen Wen, Director-General of the Department of International Cooperation at the Ministry of State Security in China, says “intelligence cooperation is a vital tool for enhancing international security and countering transnational threats. China is committed to working with other countries to promote intelligence sharing and cooperation.” Similarly, General David Petraeus, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States, says “the ability to gather, analyze, and share intelligence is the key to national security. Intelligence cooperation among nations is, therefore, a vital component in maintaining global security and stability.

Concurrently, Sri Lanka is one of the countries that recognize the importance of intelligence cooperation, and its intelligence agencies have been working closely with their counterparts in other countries to achieve strategic objectives. In the past few months, Sri Lankan intelligence agencies, with the support of their counterparts, have successfully accomplished many operations. These operations have contributed to the protection of national security and the safety of Sri Lankan citizens.

Data gathering and analysis are critical components of the intelligence process. Intelligence agencies collect and analyze data to transform them into actionable intelligence. This process is complex and time-consuming, requiring adequate resources and skilled personnel. Intelligence cooperation allows countries to share resources, skills, and knowledge, making the intelligence process more efficient and effective as it is critical for the safety and security of nations.

Sri Lankan intelligence agencies have demonstrated the importance of cooperation in achieving strategic objectives and fighting common enemies. Data gathering and analysis are critical components of the intelligence process, and intelligence cooperation allows countries to share resources, skills, and knowledge, making the intelligence process more efficient and effective. It is essential for nations to strike a balance between cooperation and protecting national interests. Intelligence cooperation is not only critical in fighting common enemies but also in advancing economic, political, and social interests.

Our intelligence agencies work tirelessly to protect our nation with limited resources, and without strong partnerships with each country, our security is at risk. Therefore, it is crucial that politicians and other members of society approach these issues constructively and prioritize national interests. Unfairly targeting and using them as scapegoats by pseudo-nationalists for political gain will have only unwanted tussles between our strategic partners. It is the responsibility of politicians and society as a whole to understand the complexity of intelligence work and the challenges they face, rather than using them as a convenient target for blame. A constructive approach to intelligence cooperation and strengthening national security is crucial for ensuring a safe and prosperous future for any nation.

The views expressed are the author’s own

Exclusive: US-India Move to Establish Joint Military Base in Trincomalee?


by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor

Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States, has made a second visit to Sri Lanka within a few months. Prior to her visit, she met with key officials in the Indian government, including Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar, to discuss a strategic plan for the region.

“During her visit Nuland suggested to the Sri Lankan government in the strongest possible terms to establish a US-Indian joint military base in Trincomalee, which will serve as a critical component in protecting US and Asia-Pacific interests and countering Chinese development activities in the region,” informed sources reaffirmed.

According to a source, “the officials also discussed implementing the 13th amendment as quickly as possible, as it will be a catalyst for achieving the objectives of the strategic plan. The 13th amendment aims to devolve power to the provincial councils in Sri Lanka while diluting the centre.”

The establishment of the military base is expected to “enhance security and stability in the region, and promote greater cooperation between the United States, India, and Sri Lanka,” a top diplomatic source says under the conditions of anonymity.

We attempted to reach out to a Colombo government official for an official statement, but no one was willing to provide one in an official capacity.

Who is this Nuland?

Victoria Nuland, a career diplomat and former US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, played a significant role in the United States’ policy towards Ukraine in the early 2010s. Nuland’s “war game” in Ukraine, and how it was exposed, provides a compelling case study on the intersection of foreign policy and geopolitical gamesmanship.

In 2014, the world watched as Ukraine erupted in conflict, with Russia annexing Crimea and pro-Russian separatists seizing control of parts of Eastern Ukraine. However, the origins of the crisis go back several years. In 2013, the Ukrainian government under President Yanukovych was poised to sign an association agreement with the European Union, signaling a shift towards closer ties with the West. This decision was vehemently opposed by Russia, which saw Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence.

It was during this time that Nuland became heavily involved in US policy towards Ukraine. Leaked audio recordings in early 2014 revealed that Nuland had discussed who should form Ukraine’s next government with the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. In the conversation, she expressed her preference for Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a pro-Western politician who eventually became Prime Minister following Yanukovych’s ouster.

The leaked recordings caused a significant stir, with some commentators accusing the US of meddling in Ukraine’s affairs and undermining its sovereignty. Nuland defended her actions, stating that the US was simply supporting a democratic, pro-European movement in Ukraine.

However, Nuland’s actions did not stop there. She also supported the anti-government protests that erupted in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014, providing various forms of assistance to the demonstrators. This assistance reportedly included training, resources, and funding for civil society groups.

US Military bases surrounding China [ Source: Base Nation]

Nuland as a Warmonger in Ukraine

Nuland’s involvement in Ukraine became emblematic of the wider geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West. Her support for the protesters was seen as evidence of the US’s desire to encroach on Russia’s sphere of influence, while her advocacy for Yatsenyuk’s appointment was seen as evidence of the US’s intention to shape Ukraine’s political future.

Ultimately, the Ukrainian crisis resulted in significant geopolitical fallout. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has claimed thousands of lives and strained relations between Russia and the West to breaking point. The role that Nuland played in the crisis, and the exposure of her actions, provides a unique insight into the complex, often hidden world of foreign policy and geopolitical gamesmanship.

Victoria Nuland’s “war game” in Ukraine and how it was exposed serves as an important case study in foreign policy and geopolitical strategy. The leaked recordings of her conversations with the US Ambassador to Ukraine revealed the extent of US involvement in Ukraine and sparked accusations of meddling. The Ukrainian crisis remains a key flashpoint in international relations, and Nuland’s role in it highlights the complexity and delicacy of geopolitical manoeuvring.

According to a top diplomatic source, Victoria Nuland’s efforts to reshape South Asian affairs in favour of the United States could have negative consequences. The source expressed concern that her actions may potentially disrupt the longstanding state of peace in the region, which Sri Lanka has worked to maintain.

New Book: Mannakulam Battle – A Testament of Valour and Dedication


by Our Defence Correspondent

‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he, today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.’ – William Shakespeare

The process of putting thoughts and ideas onto paper, and transforming them into a coherent story is both challenging and exhilarating. Unlike regular writers, we believe that writing a book can be a therapeutic and cathartic experience for military veterans. It is a tangible expression of their creativity, resilience, and determination, and a lasting legacy that honours their service and contributions to our beloved motherland.

Yesterday was a day of pride and celebration not only for this veteran but for the wider military community. The launch of his first book was a moment to honour his service, recognize his sacrifices, and share his story with the world. The veteran’s bravery and determination serve as an inspiration to us all, and his book will be a valuable resource for generations to come. The author is Selvin Sallay, a military veteran, who published his first book, “Battle of Mannakulam through the eyes of a commando” ( Mannakulam Satana Commando Esin).

The event yesterday was truly a colourful and memorable occasion, with wonderful speeches by former commandos and military veterans. Lt. Col. Nilantha Jayaweera and Major General P Chandrawansa, who were the commanding officers of the same battle, added an extra layer of excitement to the proceedings. They mentioned the importance of military literature.

Battleground in Mannakulam [ Graphic courtesy: Battle of Mannakulam through the eyes of a commando]

True, military literature has long played an important role in documenting the experiences of soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the wars and conflicts that have shaped the course of human history. Sri Lanka is not an exception.  Whether through memoirs, novels, poems, or other forms of creative expression, military literature serves as a powerful tool for capturing the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those who have fought in these wars, and for preserving these memories for future generations.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of military literature for veterans themselves. By putting their experiences down on paper, veterans can gain a greater understanding of the events they went through, and the impact they have had on their lives. Military literature provides a valuable perspective on the nature of war and conflict.

Writing is a powerful tool for preserving the memories and experiences of veterans, educating the public about the realities of war, and promoting a greater appreciation and understanding of the sacrifices made by those who serve in the military. It is therefore essential that veterans be encouraged and supported in their efforts to write about their experiences, and that the value of military literature is recognized and appreciated.

In this context, the publication of “Battle of Mannakulam through the eyes of a commando” by Major Selvin Sallay provides a unique and valuable perspective on one of the pivotal moments in the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), widely considered one of the most brutal terrorist organizations in the world. Through the lens of Major Selvin’s experiences as a commando in the battle of Mannakulam, the book offers readers a powerful and intimate look at the realities of modern warfare, and the courage and sacrifice of those who fight to protect their country and their fellow citizens.

As a participant in the battle, Major Selvin provides a first-hand account of the challenges faced by the commandos in the field, the decisions they had to make, and the emotions they experienced during this intense and highly dangerous conflict. His narrative is at once gripping, thought-provoking, and deeply inspiring, offering an unvarnished look at the realities of the ground they fought.

Major (Rtd.) Selvin Sallay with his mother during the event [ Photo: Sri Lanka Guardian]

Yesterday’s event was glamoured by many of his colleagues and relatives. Among them, a special guest was there. That was his mother. The heroic lady whose life is bigger than herself. The emotions of a mother who sends her sons to the battlefield are complex and intense, encompassing a mixture of fear, worry, pride, and heartbreak. Major Selvin’s mother is no exception. But she is different from many other mothers. She was bold enough to send three of four sons to defend the nation during the most difficult time in the country. His second elder brother, Major General Suresh Sallay and his younger brother Brigadier Ramesh Sallay, both of them continue to work in the military. Suresh is currently heading the country’s premier spy agency, the State Intelligence Service.

The idea of sending a son off to fight in a war fills many mothers with dread, as they worry about their safety and well-being, and wonder if they will ever return home. In the case of Major Selvin’s mother, the news of his injury in the Mannakulam Battle must have been especially devastating. Upon initially hearing the news of his injury, the family likely believed that Major Selvin had been killed, and his brother, now the head of the State Intelligence Service, would have been in a state of panic and dilemma over how to break the news to their mother. The moment of learning that Major Selvin was injured but safe, would have been a time of intense emotion and relief for his mother, who would have been torn between her worry for her son’s well-being and her pride in his service.

Book Cover of Battle of Mannakulam through the eyes of a commando [ Photo: Sri Lanka Guardian]

Major Selvin is a true patriot and a tall man in a band of brothers on a battlefield. He has proved by actions a deep love and devotion to the country, a willingness to defend its values and principles, and a desire to serve and support the greater good. This book is not a piece of rhetoric but a true pulse of a man who fought the most decisive battle in the country.

In addition to its value as a historical document, “Battle of Mannakulam through the eyes of a commando” also serves as a tribute to the bravery and courage of the soldiers who fought in this critical conflict.  The publication of this book also highlights the importance of preserving the memories and experiences of those who served in the military, and of making these experiences accessible to the public. By documenting the events of the Mannakulam battle through the eyes of Major Selvin Sallay, the book provides a valuable resource for future generations, who will be able to learn from and be inspired by the experiences of those who came before them.

This book tells the reader why they fought the battle. As G.K. Chesterton says, “a true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” This book is a timely and essential testimony to the bravery and dedication of true patriots who never abandon their country when surrounded by enemies.

We’ve Never Been Closer to Nuclear Catastrophe—Who Gains by Ignoring It?


Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length. A video of the description of nuclear war from the interview can be viewed on VimeoListen to the entire interview, available for streaming on Breaking Green’s website or wherever you get your podcasts. Breaking Green is produced by Global Justice Ecology Project.

This interview took place on January 25, 2023, one day after the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds before midnight—in large part due to developments in Ukraine. Dr. Helen Caldicott, an Australian peace activist and environmentalist, discussed the extreme and imminent threat of a nuclear holocaust due to a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia in Ukraine. She also addressed the announcement by the U.S. Department of Energy of a controlled nuclear reaction and outlines the relationship between the nuclear power industry and nuclear weapons.

Caldicott is the author of numerous books and is a recipient of at least 12 honorary doctorates. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize by physicist Linus Pauling and named by the Smithsonian as one of the most influential women of the 20th century. Her public talks describing the horrors of nuclear war from a medical perspective raised the consciousness of a generation.

Caldicott believes that the reality of destroying all of life on the planet has receded from public consciousness, making doomsday more likely. As the title of her recent book states, we are “sleepwalking to Armageddon.”

Steve Taylor: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently set the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight. What is the Doomsday Clock, and why is it now set to 90 seconds to midnight?

Helen Caldicott: For the last year, it’s been at 100 seconds to midnight, which is the closest it’s ever been. Each year they reset the clock according to international problems, nuclear problems. Ninety seconds to midnight—I don’t think that is close enough; it’s closer than that. I would put it at 20 seconds to midnight. I think we’re in an extremely invidious position where nuclear war could occur tonight, by accident or by design. It’s very clear to me, actually, that the United States is going to war with Russia. And that means, almost certainly, nuclear war—and that means the end of almost all life on Earth.

ST: Do you see similarities with the 1962 Cuban missile crisis?

HC: Yes. I got to know John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, later in his life. He was in the Oval Office at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. He once told me, “Helen, we came so close to nuclear war—three minutes.” Three minutes. We’re in a similar situation now.

ST: So back then, though, famously, the world held its breath during the missile crisis.

HC: Oh, we were terrified. Terrified, absolutely terrified.

ST: That doesn’t seem to be the case today.

HC: Today, the public and policymakers are not being informed adequately about what this really means—that the consequences would be so bizarre and so horrifying. It’s very funny; New York City put out a video as a hypothetical PSA in July 2022 showing a woman in the street, and it says the bombs are coming, and it’s going to be a nuclear war. It says that what you do is go inside, you don’t stand by the windows, you stand in the center of the room, and you’ll be alright. I mean, it’s absolutely absurd.

ST: That is what you were fighting against back in the ’70s and ’80s—this notion that a nuclear war is survivable.

HC: Yes. There was a U.S. defense official called T.K. Jones who reportedly said, don’t worry; “if there are enough shovels to go around,” we’ll make it. And his plan was if the bombs are coming and they take half an hour to come, you get out the trusty shovel. You dig a hole. You get in the hole. Someone puts two doors on top and then piles on dirt. I mean, they had plans. But the thing about it is that evolution will be destroyed. We may be the only life in the universe. And if you’ve ever looked at the structure of a single cell, or the beauty of the birds or a rose, I mean, what responsibility do we have?

ST: During the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. did not want missiles pointed at it from Cuba, and the Soviet Union did not want missiles pointed at it from Turkey. Do you see any similarities with the conflict in Ukraine?

HC: Oh, sure. The United States has nuclear weapons in European countries, all ready to go and land on Russia. How do you think Russia feels—a little bit paranoid? Imagine if the Warsaw Pact moved into Canada, all along the northern border of the U.S., and put missiles all along the northern border. What would the U.S. do? She’d probably blow up the planet as she nearly did with the Cuban missile crisis. I mean, it’s so extraordinarily unilateral in the thinking, not putting ourselves in the minds of the Russian people.

Nuclear Effects Computer from the Atomic Energy Commission 1962 [ Credit: Wikimedia]

ST: Do you feel we’re more at risk of nuclear war now than we were during the Cold War?

HC: Yes. We’re closer to nuclear war than we’ve ever been. And that’s what the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists indicated by moving the clock to 90 seconds to midnight.

ST: Does it seem like political leaders are more cavalier about nuclear exchange now?

HC: Yes, because they haven’t taken in what nuclear war would really mean. And the Pentagon is run by these cavalier folks who are making millions out of selling weapons. Almost the whole of the U.S. budget goes to killing and murder, rather than to health care and education and the children in Yemen, who are millions of them starving. I mean, we’ve got the money to fix everything on Earth, and also to power the world with renewable energy. The money is there. It’s going into killing and murder instead of life.

ST: You mentioned energy. The Department of Energy has announced a so-called fusion breakthrough. What do you think about the claims that fusion may be our energy future?

HC: The technology wasn’t part of an energy experiment. It was part of a nuclear weapons experiment called the Stockpile Stewardship Program. It is inappropriate; it produced an enormous amount of radioactive waste and very little energy. It will never be used to fuel global energy needs for humankind.

ST: Could you tell us a little bit about the history of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where scientists developed this fusion technology?

HC: The Lawrence Livermore Laboratory was where the first hydrogen bombs were developed. It was set up in 1952, by Edward Teller, a wicked man.

ST: There is this promotion of nuclear energy as a green alternative. Is the nuclear energy industry tied to nuclear weapons?

HC: Of course. In the ’60s, when people were scared stiff of nuclear weapons, there was a Pentagon psychologist who said, look, if we have peaceful nuclear energy, that will alleviate the people’s fear.

ST: At the end of your 1992 book If You Love This Planet, you wrote, “Hope for the Earth lies not with leaders, but in your own heart and soul. If you decide to save the Earth, it will be saved. Each person can be as powerful as the most powerful person who ever lived—and that is you, if you love this planet.” Do you stand by that?

HC: If we acknowledge the horrifying reality that there is an extreme and imminent threat of nuclear war, it’s like being told that as a planet, we have a terminal disease. If we’re scared enough, every one of us can save the planet. But we have to be very powerful and determined.

Source: Independent Media Institute

Credit Line: This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Shroud of Terror


On January 19, 2023, three Police constables were killed in a suicide attack at the Takhta Beg Police checkpost in Jamrud tehsil (revenue unit) of Khyber District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Police said terrorists armed with hand grenades, entered the premises and opened fire using a sub-machine gun. After the firing, a suicide bomber blew himself up. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.

On January 18, 2023, a teenager, Raheedullah, was found beheaded in a remote area of Bargai village in Lakki Marwat District. The Ittehadul Mujahideen-i-Khurasan left a dagger and a hand written chit in Pashto near the body, with the message that Raheedullah was found guilty of spying for the Army and the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD).

On January 14, 2023, three Policemen, including Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Badaber Sardar Hussain and his two Police guards, Irshad and Jehanzeb, were killed in a terrorist attack on the Sarband Police Station in Peshawar, the provincial capital of KP. KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Moazzam Jah Ansari said that sniper rifles were used by the terrorists in the incident, for the first time in Peshawar. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. The CTD killed the two terrorists who were involved in the attack, Gul Hayyee and Hazrat Umar, residents of the Bara area of Khyber District and Mohmand Hal Yeka Tut in Peshawar, while two to three other terrorists managed to escape.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), KP has recorded 33 terrorism-related fatalities, including 23 terrorists, eight Security Force (SF) personnel and two civilians, so far, in the current year (data till January 22, 2023). During the corresponding period of 2022, the province had recorded 19 such fatalities including 11 terrorists, five SF personnel and three civilians.

KP recorded a total of 527 fatalities (119 civilians, 173 SF personnel and 235 terrorists) in 184 incidents of killing in 2022, as against 300 such fatalities (71 civilians, 108 SF personnel, and 121 terrorists) in 129 such incidents in 2021, registering an increase of 75.66 per cent in overall fatalities. Overall fatalities, on year-on-year basis, have been on a continuous rise since 2020, when fatalities stood at 216 (61 civilians, 57 SF personnel, and 98 terrorists) in comparison to 130 (30 civilians, 69 SF personnel, and 31 terrorists) in 2019.

Significantly, overall fatalities in 2022 are the highest in a year since 2014, when there were 697 fatalities. In terms of SF fatalities, the 2022 tally is the highest since 2013, when there were 181 fatalities. Terrorist fatalities in 2022 were the highest since 2011, when there were 372 such fatalities. The number of civilians killed in a year touched three digits after a gap of five years, with 122 civilians killed in 2016.

Other parameters of violence also indicated a worsening security situation in the province. Total terrorism-linked incidents jumped sharply from 168 in 2021 to 225 in 2022, the highest since 2015, when there were 278 incidents. The number of major incidents (each involving three or more killings) increased from 41 in 2021 to 56 in 2022, the highest since 2013, when there were 72 such incidents. The resultant fatalities in such attacks also increased from 186 in 2021 to 337 in 2022. Similarly, KP accounted for an increased number of explosions, from 32 in 2021 to 45 in 2022 (the highest since 2015, when there were 50 such incidents), and the resulting fatalities spiked from 52 to 129. The province recorded eight suicide attacks in 2022 (the highest since 2017, when there were also eight such attacks) as against two in 2021. In the worst attack, on March 4, at least 63 worshippers lost their lives and 194 others were injured when a suicide attacker detonated himself inside a Shia Mosque in the Koocha Risaldar area of Peshawar.

Of 38 Districts in KP, 16 recorded terrorism-related violence, according to the SATP database. The most violent District in 2022 was, again, North Waziristan District, which accounted for 177 deaths, followed by Peshawar (87 fatalities), Bannu (60 fatalities) and Dera Ismail Khan (43 fatalities). In 2021 as well, North Waziristan recorded the maximum of 106 killings, followed by South Waziristan (51 fatalities), Peshawar (25 fatalities) and Bajaur (22 fatalities). Of 38 Districts, 21 Districts registered terrorism-related incidents in 2021. 2020 saw terrorism-related incidents in 19 Districts, of which North Waziristan had the highest number of fatalities (110), followed by Peshawar (27) and South Waziristan (21).

In 2019, violence in KP had fallen to its second lowest level, in terms of fatalities, as terrorists had started to escape to Afghanistan due to continuous SF operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan. With the Taliban starting to strengthen their position in Afghanistan in 2020, the TTP terrorists who had escaped to Afghanistan started receiving increasing support inside Afghanistan, which helped them in their efforts to revive their campaigns in Pakistan. The process gained momentum with the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021.

Though an attempt to start a direct dialogue between the TTP and the Pakistan Government was initiated soon after the Taliban seized Kabul, it finally succeeded in May 2022. After a fractious six months, it came to an end in November 2022. During this entire period, there was not a single phase of peace on the ground.

On the contrary, an October 12, 2022, report suggested that the TTP had re-emerged violently in the restive areas of Swat, as militants detained Police personnel and an Army officer after enforcement officials launched an operation to capture TTP militants. Earlier, an August 12, 2022, report noted that TTP militants had established a check-post at Balasoor Top, besides roaming about freely in other areas of the Matta tehsil of Swat. The areas included Bar Shor, Koz Shor, Namal, Gat Peuchar and among others. Significantly, the Geo News correspondent in Swat, Mehboob Ali, claimed that at least 200-250 TTP terrorists were present and operating in the area.

On December 23, 2022, after analysing the overall law and order situation in KP, the Police department declared South and North Waziristan, Lakki Marwat and Bannu Districts, terrorist ‘trouble spots’. Additional Inspector General of Police (ADGP), Operations, Mohammad Ali Babakhel declared, “Southern districts, including North and South Waziristan [from among the newly-merged tribal districts] as well as Lakki Marwat and Bannu districts [from settled areas], are trouble spots.”

Indeed, on December 27, 2022, Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah disclosed that there were around 7,000 to 10,000 TTP fighters in the region, and they were accompanied by 25,000 members of their families. He added that some of the terrorists, who had previously laid down arms, had secretly resumed activities, and alleged, “The biggest reason for this is the failure of [the] Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and Counter Terrorism Department… It is their job to stop it.”

Meanwhile, a report presented to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the national security review meeting in December 2022, warned that, because of an acute shortage of staff and resources, the KP CTD would not be able to prevent or stop terrorist attacks in the province, and lacked the capacity to fight terrorism.

Significantly, in a daring incident on December 18, 2022, a detained terrorist overpowered a constable at the CTD Complex in Bannu Cantonment (Bannu District) and, after snatching the constable’s weapon, freed 34 other detained terrorists. As soon as they came out of the lockup, the terrorists took possession of more weapons and started firing. One CTD constable was killed, while another was injured, and died later. Meanwhile, SFs cordoned off the area and launched an operation. Immediately after the seizure of the complex by the terrorists on December 18, two terrorists were killed, three were arrested, and two security forces personnel were injured in the exchange of fire. Efforts to induce the terrorists to surrender unconditionally continued for the next two days. On December 20, the SFs took initiated an operation against the terrorists who refused to surrender. During the resulting and fierce exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces, 25 terrorists were killed. Three terrorists were arrested and the remaining seven surrendered. Three SF personnel were killed in the operation, while another 10, including two officers, were injured. The TTP claimed responsibility for the incident.

As ‘official’ talks between the TTP and the Government collapsed with the TTPs declaration of an end to the ceasefire on November 28, 2022, an escalation of violence within KP, and the possibilities of its fanning out into other areas of Pakistan, have increased dramatically. The risk of Pakistan’s tribal areas once again becoming the “most dangerous place on earth” is real.

1 2 3 5