India-Pakistan: Taliban Calls For A Timeout, Are Ignored


May 26, 2009: As the Pakistani army advanced into the Swat valley, they found thousands of Taliban prepared to fight. The terrorists had built bunkers and set up roadside bombs. As the army moved up the valley, armed civilians in many towns turned on small contingents of Taliban and drove them out. In some larger towns, especially in northern Swat, the local militias are getting hammered by the Taliban. Many of the Taliban concentrated in the largest city in the valley, Mingora. There, the Taliban made themselves even more unpopular by using landmines. The Taliban mines are used indiscriminately, and thus will claim many civilian victims over the next year or so until all are found and cleared.  So far, the fighting with the Taliban has left at least 1,100 Taliban, and about a hundred soldiers and police dead.

South of Swat, the army is moving more troops up for an advance into Waziristan, the main source of Taliban support in the tribal territories.

Over 2.5 million people have fled their homes to avoid the fighting with the Taliban in the tribal territories (in Swat and adjacent districts). They are not just fleeing the fighting, but also Taliban recruiting and fund raising efforts. The Taliban have been demanding that each family supply one man (or teenager) armed with a gun, plus a contribution of about a thousand dollars. Most families cannot, or do not, want to comply. These refugees are expected to be homeless for months. The fighting, and Taliban activities in general, have crippled the economy in the tribal territories, and reduced the incomes for most families. Some of these refugees want to leave the tribal territories, but police are stopping them from entering Sind to Punjab, the lowland provinces where 80 percent of Pakistanis live. The lowlanders believe tribal territory refugees will form communities that will provide cover and support for criminals and terrorists. There are some 200,000 Afghan refugees (from the 1980s war) still living in Sind and Punjab, and are often involved in criminal and terrorist operations. There are still three million Afghans living in Pakistan, and they are often pro-Taliban. The lowland Pakistanis are largely united against the Taliban now, even though many of the lowlanders are Islamic conservatives. At the moment, there are 4-5,000 armed Taliban opposing over 50,000 troops and police in Swat and surrounding areas. Some small groups of Taliban are crossing into Punjab, but there are quickly identified and confronted by troops or police.

May 25, 2009:  In Mingora, Pakistani troops are fighting about 300 Taliban defending deserted buildings in the city center. It's expected to take a week or so to clear all the Taliban out of the city.  Meanwhile, the Taliban have announced a ceasefire in Swat, but the army has ignored this. The Taliban cannot stand up to troops, especially in urban areas. The Taliban fighters are largely untrained country folk who are far deadlier out in the hills. The Taliban leaders do not want to give the order to flee back to the mountains, as this would be an admission of defeat, and a major symbolic defeat. But the Taliban fighters are heading for the hills. The Pushtun warriors who supply most of the Taliban manpower, customarily flee from a more powerful enemy. It's an old tradition, which has kept many of the tribes from being exterminated during centuries of constant fighting and feuding.

May 24, 2009:  Pakistani troops are fighting block by block in Mingora, the largest city in Swat. About ten percent (about 20,000 people) of the population stayed in Mingora, and are trying to stay out of the way of the fighting. There appear to be no more than 1,500 Taliban in the city, and the army is surrounding the place to make sure the terrorists don't get away.

In Austria, Sikh extremists attacked and killed one of two visiting Sikh clerics, who were conducting religious services for followers. There are about 3,000 Sikhs living in Austria. About two percent of Indians are Sikhs, an offshoot of Hinduism that mandates all adult males wear a turban and take the last name "Singh" (Lion). The Austrian violence was over the use of caste among Sikhs. Many Sikhs believe caste is not relevant, but the dozen or so attackers in Austria belong to a faction that believes caste is still important. In northwest India, where most  Sikhs live, there were riots in response to the Austrian violence.

Police in eastern India found and shot dead two Maoist leaders.     

May 21, 2009: In western India (Maharashtra state) sixteen police were killed when they were ambushed by Maoist rebels.

May 20, 2009: Pakistani police have been alerted to look out for seven al Qaeda leaders who have fled Iraq and are believed to be in Pakistan. The terrorists are trying to resume their attacks in Pakistan, in cooperation with the Taliban. The Iraqi terrorists have money, and are looking for weapons and recruits. Police, at check points, are arresting foreigners who appear to be headed for Swat (to join the Taliban.)




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