Sunday, March 01, 2009

down at Abu Asterisk's mobile phone shop again

Mumbai privilege-escalation attack news. Dawn reports that a Pakistani colonel has been identified in the evidence the Indians have presented - one R. Salahuddin from the "Special Communications Group" (Via Tom "Rickay!" Ricks). However, the evidence of his involvement is an e-mail with that address in the Reply-To field. If you can spoof voice CLI, you can certainly spoof e-mail Reply-To fields, as these are unverified and passed in cleartext. I'm increasingly concerned that spammers nearly started a nuclear war.

Also, if some sort of electronic warfare/cyber-war IT shop in the Pakistani military were involved, this raises some interesting questions - the Schwerpunkt of the operation was the fake phone call to Mr 10%. As Winston Churchill says somewhere in an apologia about the Dardanelles, the main theatre and the decisive theatre of war are not necessarily the same, and it is a serious mistake to imagine that the mass of forces in the main theatre makes it the decisive one. So the actual target of the operation was the president of Pakistan, although the eventual intended target was India. Liddell Hart would have been delighted.

However, it's very likely indeed that the e-mail in question is a fake. Further, I would think it as good as certain that the group involved were known to the ISI - they always are - but then, that doesn't imply that the ISI controlled them. The relationship between the manipulator and the manipulated, the insurgent and the counterinsurgent, is always ambiguous, and the ISI is nothing if not expert at tacking on the winds of ambiguity.

This feeds into another question about Afghanistan and Pakistan. Reader "Ajay", who ought to have his own blog, has been asking on other blogs about the make-up of the Pakistani not-the-Taliban - how do they break down into local/tribal militia, international jihadis, and whatnot. If the locals predominate, of course, Pakistan is more stable than you might think - they aren't interested in the cities and the heartland. But there is a worrying number of attacks in the heartland.

I suspect the most extreme groups are probably also the ones closest to the secret state. After all, they have little to no popular support, which is handy for the ISI as it limits the degree to which they can spread, and they are willing to do crazy things. Yet again, the Kashmir issue is the big ignored motivator - the Palestine of South Asia. Perhaps the real story of the Mumbai attack is that one of the ISI's pet, hyper-extreme outfits were able to find the support the spooks would deny them by moving their base onto the Internet?

2 comments:

wkwillis said...

As I recall, Colonel Apis of Serbian Intelligence was shot by the Serbian government for providing the guns to Princip and company.
Much too late, of course.

ajay said...

If you haven't read Ahmed "Taliban" Rashid's "Descent into Chaos" yet you probably should - though I'm worried that Rashid is a bit close to Hamid Karzai, his reporting is generally excellent. And I am rapidly turning to the opinion that the two tragedies of 9/11 were a) lots of innocent people died and b) Rumsfeld and Franks survived. Pretty much everything that went wrong can be traced back to an insanely bad decision by one of those two...

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