Afghanistan – Getting the Bare Bones Right

As the US and NATO forces prepare for a withdrawal from the active theater in Afghanistan in 2014, and as Afghanistan heads into a presidential election in the same year, there is heightened concern about how the situation will play out.

In a manner of simple-speak, there are players within the country, and proverbially saying, without the country, who are each maneuvering to either minimize or maximize their positioning and stakes in the post-2014 scenario.

That the outcome of the situation in Afghanistan has immense ramifications on the country itself, the region, and globally is not a matter of concentric circles – with global security least and last affected.

Each geographic construct is at an equal scale of vulnerability if dysfunction, violence, and hatred breed in Afghanistan. Be it the men, women, and children of Afghanistan , Pakistan, the United States, any country in Europe, India, China, or, you name it.

Minimization versus Maximization

The various summits, conclaves, seminars, bilateral, track 2 and such diplomacy, the covert and intelligence assets, and the development aid, civic society engagements, inter-faith and a plethora of capacity building are all circling around this issue – how to minimize the ripple effects of an explosive Afghanistan.

On the other hand, an equally intense dynamic strategy is in progress by varied stakeholders on how to maximize their strategic interests in the vacuous space that is expected to emerge post-2014 in Afghanistan.

The intent of this column is not to analyze the strategies of maximization, minimization or optimization that are being considered, or countered amongst the matrix of stakeholders. Those shall be, and what results we see, for the good or bad, shall be.

Rather the goal of this column is to bring focus on a tactical strategy that can have a significant impact on the ground while the mile-high grand strategies inter-play.

There is perhaps only fact which is assured in a post-2014 Afghanistan. That there shall be geographic nodes within Afghanistan where some residual U.S. and NATO forces shall maintain a presence – irrespective of the outcomes of known and unknown negotiations and the power-play that emerges post-withdrawal of the forces.

Of course, the first objective of these outposts shall be to ensure their own security. More so in the newer environment when the withdrawal is abdicating the once-upon-a-time objective of foreign forces to bring peace to the entire country.

Thus, in a realistic scenario what shall be any tactical strategy that is real, on the ground – and with at least some chances of a modicum of success – as the country hurtles towards chaos and violence?

The Skeleton Strategy

The physical nodes across the territory of Afghanistan where the few and remaining U.S. and NATO forces will entrench themselves (and some of the Afghan outposts that can contribute to this strategy) will be the only outposts of security in a most likely situation in 2014 – with their influence extending to a radius of perhaps no more than one to two kilometers around the base.

Is it conceivable that these outposts, tens or hundreds of miles apart, are at least connected to and with each other? Via secure road-links? In fact the very planning of where to locate these outposts must be done with this strategy in mind. More on that later.

The entire military and any developmental aid that outside governments and agencies give to Afghanistan must be focused only on these road-links to create a bare-bones skeleton which can give confidence to the people and writ of the state of Afghanistan.

These corridors of connectivity, security, and development are the bare bones that will give hope to the people and nationalists of Afghanistan that peace is possible and can endure in this country. If, as is expected, the U.S. and NATO forces will be withdrawing into these nodal cocoons and not undertake any combat roles, then any capacity building of the Afghan security forces must firstly be focused on establishing peace and security among these inter-connected nodes.

Scholars of history and civilizations will note the key role that roads and routes played in the development of any society, community, nation, or civilization. Sure, the jury is still out whether the cities emerged first and then the nomads and traders created these routes connecting these cities; or, these cities emerged because the hunters, nomads, and traders took to settling in these locations as they progressed on their journeys.

Where are the joints of the skeleton?

History is history. We are now in the 22nd century, and cities and towns may have emerged in Afghanistan but they are not connected for free flow and exchange of people, trade, and ideas.

Much as they tried, the U.S. and NATO failed to create this connectivity between the cities and trade routes of Afghanistan. Therefore it is now necessary to re-look into the routes in Afghanistan.
Military and development planners now need to think not about cities and trading centers, but rather think about military outposts, and connect them to create functional roads and routes. And this brings us to the issue we highlighted earlier – where should the U.S. and NATO military outposts be located post-2014?

The answer is simple – these military outposts should be located outside the main trading cities and towns of Afghanistan. These locations must not be chosen for military exigency, and laziness of thought about location. Rather, these must be carefully mapped out, with a skeleton strategy clearly in the mind. Just because an ISAF air-base in some remote location has been operating for last ten years is no reason to locate an Afghan police training institute at this location. Shut down that base – and create a strategic node outside a town or city. Connect this node with another military node outside some nearby town or city.

Development money must be channelized to stimulate social and economic development along the route of these potentially-to-be-connected-nodes. This is the meat around the bones of connectivity.

A bare-bones skeleton in Afghanistan must stand up post-withdrawal of U.S. and NATO in 2014 – even a minimalist exemplar. It can be a hub-spoke, with few radials of even 100 miles each; or it can be a linear model of a corridor of a few hundred miles; or it can be a matrix of nodes. As long as there is security at end of the connecting nodes, and development at least 100 meters to each side of the connectivity.

While each outside stakeholder, ranging from Pakistan to the ISI, Taliban, Al Qaeda, The United States, Iran, Russia, and India, are trying to maximize their own interests; and while each internal stakeholder in Afghanistan is also trying to maximize its own interests – can we commit ourselves and force a consensus on a minimalist, bare bones, and skeleton strategy?

If the Afghan people and the international community are together not able to stand-up or progress towards such a skeleton, then we can all be rest assured that blood and mayhem shall be what we get – in Afghanistan and across the world.



Indian American attorney Sheila Murthy honoured

Indian-American attorney Sheela Murthy has been recognised as one of the world’s top international corporate immigration lawyers in the 2013 edition of Corporate Immigration, a prestigious directory of leading advocates in her field.

The directory is published by Law Business Research, London-based strategic research partner of the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law, and the official research partner of the International Bar Association.

Murthy serves on boards for a number of organisations, including the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Eastern Region in Philadelphia, Stevenson University, The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) DC and as the vice chairwoman for the Maryland State Chamber of Commerce.

She previously was chairwoman of the United Way Worldwide’s Leadership Council of India. Also on the Board of the United Way of Central Maryland, she was recognised her as the 2009 Philanthropist of the Year.

Murthy helps lead the MurthyNayak Foundation, a nonprofit nongovernmental organisation that seeks to help with women’s basic needs and protection from abuse, children’s education, support programs that assist immigrants, and causes that help to educate and advocate for immigrants in the US.

Source: The Economic Times

3 Indian Americans Named Finalists in 3M Scientist Challenge

Three Indian American youths are among the ten budding student scientists from across the country who will begin a unique summer mentorship program with a 3M scientist as finalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, one of the nation’s premier science competitions for students in grades 5-8.

In January, Discovery Education and 3M challenged students across the country to create a video that described a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem related to how we live, work or play.

These students displayed top scientific ingenuity and inventive thinking and will now move forward into the next round to develop their idea from a concept into an actual prototype, with support from their 3M mentors.

The Indian American youths are 14-year-old Anish Chaluvadi, of Simpsonville, S.C., who attends Langston Charter Middle School as an eighth grader; Srijay Kasturi, of Reston, Va., who is a 12-year-old homeschooled student at the seventh grade level; and Aishani Sil, of Plano, Texas, who is a 12-year-old Rice Middle School student in the seventh grade.

At the end of the summer, students will travel to the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn., to present their final solutions to a panel of judges. The winning young scientist will win $25,000, a trip from Discovery Student Adventures, and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

Chaluvadi enjoys playing music, but also finds time for Lego Robotics in his free time, having won the Science Innovation Award at the World Lego Robotics Tournament in Florida in 2012. He eventually wants to become a biomedical engineer because he enjoys overcoming challenges and excels at math and science.

Kasturi enjoys working on web programming, writing code and building hardware. He is also interested in filmmaking and often uses FanFiction to help him learn how to tell a story to others.

The Texas State Merit winner of Discovery Young Scientist Challenge 2012, Sil wants to be a scientist in the future. However, she is artistic in her free time, having won several art competitions.

Source: IndiaWest

USINPAC raises a toast for Latha Ramchandran, Jagdip, Ash Shah, Gaurav Khandelwal and Dhiren Sethia on being recognized by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH) for their contributions towards enhancing and empowering business and education between India and the US


Five Indian Americans have been recognised by an industry body here for their contributions towards enhancing and empowering business and education between India and the US.

The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH) annual awards were presented last week at its 14th edition under the theme ‘Empowering Energy & Education – Onwards & Upwards‘.

The ceremony, attended by around 650 guests, included Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressmen Al Green and Pete Olson, Harris county sheriff Adrian Garcia, Mayor of Houston Anise Parker among others.

The ‘Educator of the Year‘ award was presented to Latha Ramchandran, dean and professor of finance at C T Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston.

Latha is an expert in international and corporate finance, energy education, corporate governance and leadership.

IACCGH founding member Jagdip Ahluwalia, who currently serves as its executive director, received a special award for his “outstanding contributions to the chamber” since its inception in 1999.

Jagdip has been a force behind promoting Indian business success in the U.S. while providing business partners with access to opportunities in India.

Ash Shah, who owns a major plastic films and packaging product distribution company, with units in various countries, was awarded ‘International Business Person of the Year’.

Business Person of the Year‘ award was presented to Dhiren Sethia, managing partner and co-founder of a management and technology consulting firm focused on Fortune 500 companies.

Gaurav Khandelwal, founder and chief executive officer of ‘Chai1′, which is among 25 fastest growing companies in Houston every year since inception, was awarded ‘Young Business Entrepreneur of the Year’.

The chief guest P Harish, Consul General of India, Houston and the keynote speaker Robert E Beauchamp, chairman and CEO of BMC Software, highlighted the IACCGH contribution in connecting India and America.

Beauchamp described how the chamber convinced him that India was the best location for their expansion for talent, adding that the BMC India office has now become a hub for innovation.

Highlighting the education and energy theme, IACCGH president Pankaj Dhume said Indo-US cooperation in both these sectors would boost job growth and major alliances between universities in Houston and India.

Source: The Economic Times

USINPAC congratulates Indian American Alka Sagar who has been named federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

Alka Sagar, most recently assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District in Los Angeles, Calif., has been named federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by a panel of district judges.

According to the South Asian Bar Association of Southern California, she becomes the first South Asian woman to serve as a federal judge in the Central District and the first South Asian woman federal judge west of the Mississippi.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to continue to pursue my career in public service and to serve the people in the Central District of California as a magistrate judge,” Sagar told India-West in an e-mail. “I hope to see many future appointments of South Asian jurists on the bench both on the state and federal level.”

(Judge Cathy Bissoon, who is of Hispanic and Indian American descent, was appointed by a board of judges in Pennsylvania as a magistrate judge and sworn in Aug. 1, 2008, thus becoming the first woman of South Asian descent to sit on a federal bench in the U.S. In 2010, she was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania by President Barack Obama and confirmed to the post by the U.S. Senate Oct. 17, 2011. See sidebar.)

This appointment is exciting,” said Puneet V. Kakkar, president of SABA-SC. Sagar “has been a leader and a mentor for South Asian attorneys for more than two decades. She has embraced public service her entire life, and the bench and people of the Central District will be enriched with her appointment.”

Sagar has been an assistant U.S. attorney for 26 years and served as deputy chief of the major frauds and major crimes sections.

I have been fortunate to have worked on a wide variety of cases as an assistant U.S. attorney — including a myriad of complex fraud prosecutions, securities fraud, criminal tax, as well as money laundering, computer counterfeiting and sound piracy,” she told India-West. “I also prosecuted the largest cash robbery in U.S. history — the $18.9 million robbery of Dunbar armored.”

Sagar has received the Attorney General’s “Director’s Award for Superior Performance” and was named by the Los Angeles Business Journal one of the top 50 trial lawyers in Los Angeles.

She is active with Project Lead, a program where prosecutors teach inner city school children about the legal system. Sagar has also served on the board of directors of SABA-SC, most recently as SABA-SC’s judicial appointments co-chair.

I also served as a judge pro tem for the Los Angeles Superior Court and volunteered with public counsel to assist families with adoptions. I found my community service to be very rewarding and it has confirmed my dedication to a career in public service,” she told India-West.

Sagar joins Magistrate Judge Jay C. Gandhi, former SABA-SC president, on the bench.

Gandhi, in a SABA-SC press release, said Sagar “as a decorated” federal prosecutor “exemplifies the best of America and the court is privileged to have her ample talents at hand. She has not only one of the sharpest legal minds, but the rare gift of impeccable judgment. She has also exhibited a steadfast commitment to public service.”

Born in Uganda, Sagar said her parents were also born in Uganda and Kenya. “My grandparents were from North India. They came to East Africa in the early 1900s to help build the railroad for the British colonies.

“My family moved to Bangalore for a short time when I was four years old and thereafter immigrated to Canada when I was five. I grew up in Montreal and Vancouver, graduating from high school in Montreal. My family then moved to Los Angeles where I attended UCLA, graduating with a degree in anthropology and continuing on to UCLA law school.”

Source: IndiaWest