India-Pakistan: Grinding The Bastards Down


October 27, 2009:  The Pakistani military offensive in the tribal territories has to be convincing to the tribal people (the majority) who want nothing to do with the Taliban or al Qaeda. Most tribals simply see the army has conducting a traditional "punitive expedition" (come in and destroy the property of hostile tribal leaders, kill or capture some of them, and leave). The tribal people want the Islamic radicals out, but don't believe the army will stick around long enough to flush out all these guys. The army plan is to keep at it for another two months, and then reduce troop levels to a security and patrolling force.

This is a campaign of small battles. The soldiers are advancing from three directions, often along a single road. There are a up to a hundred casualties a day (dead and wounded terrorists and soldiers.) The army is advancing slowly, to insure that the troops win all these little battles. It's important for troop morale that the tribesmen do not pull off many of their traditional ambushes and surprise attacks that have, for centuries, killed and demoralized invaders. This has largely been successful, with one soldier dying for every ten or so Islamic radical fighters killed.

The intense military activity has interrupted many planned terror attacks. Civilians are willing to tip off troops or cops to terrorist activity (if only to protect themselves, as civilians tend to be the victims of the terror attacks). Civilians point out terrorists (or simply suspicious strangers, who may not be terrorists) and, more importantly, stockpiles of terrorist weapons. Thus scores of bombs and mines have been seized before they could be used.

In the last week, Pakistani police arrested hundreds of Islamic terrorists, or suspects, outside the tribal territories. Many of these were Pushtun tribals who had moved from the poverty of the tribal territories, to relative prosperity of lowland Punjab and Sind province. Several were caught wearing, or carrying, suicide bombs or weapons. The roundup has also snagged several Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, who had taken refuge outside the tribal territories. The success of these efforts led to many Pakistani schools being reopened, after closing for a week to avoid terrorist attacks.

In the last week of fighting in the Pakistani tribal territories, over 200 people have died, most of them Taliban and al Qaeda gunmen. But dozens of others were victims of Islamic terrorist suicide bomb attacks. These were directed at military targets inside, and outside, the tribal territories. Again, most of the victims have been civilians, as the security forces have the government and military facilities secured.

In the last two months, about 200,000 Pakistani civilians have fled the fighting in the tribal territories, and half those have hit the road in the past two weeks.

The Pakistani Army is using a lot more American aerial  surveillance, especially live video from U.S. UAVs operating from Pakistani bases. The Pakistanis have tried to keep this cooperation secret, but without success. Given the importance of the Waziristan operation, they are using all the reconnaissance resources the Americans will provide. This makes it difficult for the tribal forces to move fighters cross country to ambush and harass army support troops or reinforcements. The American UAVs also provide new targets for the Pakistani aircraft (helicopter gunships and fighter-bombers.)

In the Swat valley, to the north of Waziristan, troops and police continued to search for Taliban leaders. Several have been killed or arrested in the last week. But many of the lower ranking Taliban have simply gone into hiding.

October 26, 2009: Pakistani police arrested eleven Iranian Revolutionary Guards (who are in charge of border security) for having wandered across the border. The Revolutionary Guards have been increasingly active, since a terrorist attacks killed several dozen of them last week, trying to catch the Pakistan based Sunni Islamic radicals who have been making attacks on Shia controlled Iran. The Pakistani police released the Revolutionary Guards after about a day.

Pakistan is finally passing a law making fundraising for, and contributing to, Islamic terrorist groups illegal, and more difficult. Islamic conservative legislators had long blocked such laws, knowing that many of their wealthiest supporters provided funds for Islamic radical groups.

October 25, 2009:  In eastern India, four policemen died when their vehicle hit a landmine. Elsewhere in the area, six Maoist fighters were killed in a gun battle. The government is assembling a force of over 70,000 police, paramilitaries and troops for a big offensive against the Maoists (and especially their camps in forests and mountains.) The government believes that a year or more of operations against the Maoists, with this large force, will do substantial damage to the leftist rebels.

October 22, 2009: Pakistani troops entered the South Waziristan town of Kotkai, home to Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud. The town itself was easy, but the most powerful families in the area lived in walled compounds in the heights surrounding the town. Some of these walls were over a meter thick and built of reinforced concrete. Army engineers blew up these walled compounds, so the Taliban could not reoccupy them.

An explosion killed Al Qaeda bomb builder Abu Musa al Misri. He was the local expert on fitting suicide vehicles with bombs. He died when it workshop in North Waziristan exploded. At first, it was believed to be a U.S. missile strike. But as the wreckage was examined, it became apparent that something inside the building had exploded. This was likely an accident, which is common in workshops that build terrorist explosive devices.

October 21, 2009: In Pakistan's South Waziristan, pro-Taliban tribesmen fell back before advancing troops, apparently planning to make a stand in their mountain bases (walled compounds). A U.S. embassy official handed over $150,000 worth of bomb disposal equipment, for use in the Pakistani tribal areas. So far this year, nearly $2 million worth of U.S. bomb disposal training and gear has been provided for police in the tribal areas.

October 20, 2009: Two suicide bombs went off at the International Islamic University in the Pakistani capital, leaving six dead.




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