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US Defence Budget 2017 – Mixed Bag
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 31 Dec , 2016

With less than a month left to handover to President-elect Donald Trump,  President Obama on December 23 signed the US Defence Budget 2017 for $618 billion, officially making it as the ‘National Defence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017’ (NDAA-2017).

The good news for India is that this Act asks the Defence Secretary and Secretary of State to take steps necessary to recognize India as America’s “major defence partner”.

The good news for India is that this Act asks the Defence Secretary and Secretary of State to take steps necessary to recognize India as America’s “major defence partner”. A summary of the bill released by Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, mentions “enhances security cooperation between US and India”. It also asks the administration to designate an individual within the executive branch who has experience in defence acquisition and technology to reinforce and ensure, through inter-agency policy coordination, the success of the Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship; and to help resolve the remaining issues impacting US-India  defence trade, security cooperation, and co-production and co-development opportunities.

The second significant news is that NDAA-2017 has imposed ‘four’ conditions on Pakistan to be eligible for US$400 million and US$900 million of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).

These conditions are that the US Defence Secretary must:

  • one, certify to Congress that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the safe haven and freedom of movement of the Haqqani network in Pakistan;
  • two, that Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the group from using its territory;
  • three, certify that Pakistan actively coordinates with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants, such as the Haqqani network, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and;
  • four,  that Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani network senior leaders and mid-level operatives.

It may be recalled that US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter refused to give similar certification as above to Pakistan earlier this year because of which Pakistan was denied US$300 million under CSF.

The Heart of Asia summit held at Amritsar recently re-confirmed Pakistan using all these terrorist organizations for waging proxy war.

Pakistan has been using the Haqqani Network to target US-NATO forces, Afghan Government, and Indian interests in Afghanistan. Mention of the Haqqani Network in NDAA-2017, therefore, is good. However, what is not good is the mention of ‘only’ the Haqqani Network, leaving Pakistan to continue employing her other proxies.

The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report of July 2016 mentioned Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-i-Mohammed (JeM) operating in Afghanistan. The Herat Security Dialogue in Afghanistan during October 2016 brought out that in addition to LeT and JeM, Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahiba too were undertaking terror attacks n Afghanistan.

The Heart of Asia summit held at Amritsar recently re-confirmed Pakistan using all these terrorist organizations for waging proxy war.

The US is fully aware of Pakistan’s proxy war on India, spearheaded by the ISI through the LeT and JeM. There has been loads of evidence including from the terror attacks in Mumbai (26/11), IAF base at Pathankot, Uri, Nagrota, you name it. Both the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban have largely coalesced, as admitted by Director US National Intelligence in February 2016. This has been orchestrated by Pakistan’s ISI through the Haqqani Network, using Sirajuddin Haqqani, chief of Haqqani Network and deputy of Afghan Taliban.

The ISIS of Iraq-Syria is different from the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK), latter having been clobbered together by the ISI by mating so called ‘disgruntled’ elements of both Taliban, mixing them with Mujahid regulars and ISI operatives, and pushing them west into Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. In addition to ISIS, the ISK and Pakistan’s involvement with it needs to also be addressed.

…while the US military has been sacrificing lives, the US Administration through the CIA has been arming and funding terrorist organizations that the US military is fighting.

Voice of America had earlier reported Afghanistan officially telling Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed, former LeT chief is directing ISIS operations in Afghanistan.

Under the NDAA-2017, a counter-ISIL fund amounting to US$1.2 billion is being established. But then Michael T Flynn, former head of US Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Advisor selected by President-elect to Donald Trump had publicly stated in 2015 that “the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al Nusra was ‘willful decision’ of the US”.

Recently, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has openly accused the Obama Administration for supporting the ISIS and Al Qaeda, and has spearheaded introduction of the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act”. This indicates that while the US military has been sacrificing lives, the US Administration through the CIA has been arming and funding terrorist organizations that the US military is fighting. Same applies to the Af-Pak region.

General John W Nicholson, Commander Resolute Support Mission and US Forces in Afghanistan while briefing the Pentagon in December 2016 brought out that of the 98 US-designated terrorist groups globally, 20 are in the Af-Pak region; representing the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world. So, logically restrictions imposed by the NDAA-2017 should pressure Pakistan to curb the activities of all its proxies operating in India and Afghanistan, not just the Haqqani Network. Hopefully, such partial counter-terrorism policies would be rectified with Generals James Mattis and Michael T Flynn assuming the appointments of Secretary for Defense and National Security Advisor under Donald Trump; with both these generals known for their no-nonsense approach towards terrorism.

Not many would be aware that the NDAA-2017 was produced by the Senate Armed Forces Committee, not by the US Department of Defense (DoD). In fact, the Senate Armed Forces Committee has been producing the NDAA for the past 54 years. As a pre-budget exercise, the Theatre Commanders and the Commander Special Operations Command present to the Senate Armed Forces Committee: existing combat capability of respective command; budget demand, and; how will the combat capability of respective command be enhanced if their budget demand is met.

India would do well to use our Standing Committee for Defence of Parliament in formulating the Annual Defence Budget, irrespective of whether we have a CDS or not…

In preparing the NDAA-2017, the Senate Armed Forces Committee has focused on: requisite equipping against technologically sophisticated adversaries; prioritizing military readiness to conduct full range of assigned missions; improving and sustaining alignment of effort and resources across different regions, functions, and domains; comprehensive reform of defence acquisition system; reduce excessive and wasteful spending; enhance capability of US military and security forces of allied and friendly nations to fight terrorist organizations; advance ability to establish deterrence and defend allies and partners in Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific; improves ability of Armed Forces to counter emerging and nontraditional threats, focusing on terrorism, cyber warfare, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

India would do well to use our Standing Committee for Defence of Parliament in formulating the Annual Defence Budget, irrespective of whether we have a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or not, especially when we have this Committee presently headed by a veteran Major General. The three Services could make pre-budget presentations to the Standing Committee for Defence of Parliament, and the latter could then present a holistic proposed budget to the government. The present procedure of individual Services forwarding their wish lists to HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), onward to MoD and the Ministry of Finance making arbitrary cuts has left the forces grossly under equipped. It is time the government reviews this procedure.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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