India-Pakistan: It's A Strange World


February 23, 2011: The American decapitation (concentrate on killing or capturing leaders) strategy is causing a split between the senior Taliban leadership in Pakistan., and the mid-level commanders who actually run combat operations in Afghanistan. The Taliban has a sanctuary in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan), where CIA UAV missile attacks are not allowed. It's an open secret that the Taliban leaders are in and around Quetta (the capital of Baluchistan). There are also rest camps for Taliban fighters operating across the border in southern Afghanistan (mainly Kandahar and Helmand provinces.) The growing problem is that the Taliban senior leaders, safe in Quetta, are demanding that the Taliban middle management across the border in Afghanistan do more to keep the foreign troops away from drug gang operations (poppy fields and labs for converting opium into heroin). During the past year, doing that has become suicidal for Taliban leaders operating in Afghanistan. While the U.S. can only track and kill Taliban leaders in Pakistan with missile armed UAVs, in Afghanistan these leaders face far more danger. U.S. troops prefer to capture these guys (as a source of information), but will otherwise kill them with ground fire, smart bombs or whatever. Rewards are paid for targeting information, and few Afghans are adverse to making a few thousand bucks at the expense of the hated Taliban (who continue to behave badly with the civilians they claim to be protecting.) As a result, morale is very low among Taliban field commanders. Some men are refusing promotion, even though it brings with it more money, and sanctuary for your family in Quetta. While the Taliban has a form of life insurance, it does not make the widow and her kids rich. Taliban middle-management is increasingly calling for peace negotiations, but the Taliban senior leadership, safe and sanctimonious in Quetta, refuses to negotiate. It's victory or nothing. Pakistan is unwilling to remove the sanctuary status of Quetta, as powerful groups in the Pakistani government see the Taliban as a key tool for controlling events in Afghanistan. This offends the Afghans a great deal, but Pakistanis in general agree that, left to their own devices, the Afghans would become allies with the evil Indians. Meanwhile, there's a road heading north from Quetta, that crosses the Afghan border after about a hundred kilometers, goes through Spin Boldak and then north another hundred kilometers to Kandahar City, the traditional "home town" of the Taliban. It's the road less travelled these days.

This Taliban sanctuary deal is supposed to give the Pakistani government some protection from Islamic radical attack. It has, but only to an extent. There are many factions among Islamic radicals, some of them at war with each other, as well as the Pakistani state. In general, the Taliban has become hostile to al Qaeda, but there are other Pakistani Islamic terror groups that specialize on attacking India, or sometimes attack Pakistani targets as well. When the Pakistani government decided to back, and control, Islamic radicalism back in the 1970s, they apparently did not envision things getting so out-of-control. Now the Pakistanis both fight, and support, Islamic terror groups, sometimes the same ones in the course of a year. It's a strange world.

Indian Maoist rebels have come up with a powerful weapon. Several days ago, they kidnapped two senior Orissa State officials, and successfully negotiated a deal to free the two captives in exchange for several jailed Maoists, and a halt to police operations, against Maoists, for a short time.  Government officials now have to be on guard against Maoist kidnapping, because this sort of thing will now become common. Politicians and bureaucrats hate this sort of thing.

February 22, 2011: To celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations, China and Pakistan will hold two military exercises this year. One will involve warplanes, and the other ground forces. Both will be small, mainly to remind the world what close allies Pakistan and China are.

February 21, 2011:  For the first time this month, a CIA UAV fired missiles at Islamic terrorists in Pakistan's tribal territories, killing at least five people. The last such attack was on January 23. On January 27th, an American intelligence, working under diplomatic immunity, was attacked in Lahore, Pakistan, and killed two Pakistanis. The CIA missile attacks, which had been running at the rate of two a week, stopped, as Pakistan refused to release the American agent and said it would prosecute him for murder. The U.S. told Pakistan that such a breach of international law would lead to a halt in American aid, and more retaliation besides. The Pakistanis dropped the criminal charges, admitted the American agent has diplomatic immunity, but has not released him yet. Apparently that is being negotiated, with the Pakistanis hoping to get the American aid with fewer restrictions on how much of can be stolen by Pakistani officials without interference from U.S. auditors and busybodies.

February 20, 2011: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Mohmand Agency, north of Waziristan, on the other side of the Khyber Pass), troops clashed with a large group of Taliban, killing at least fifteen. The battle began when the Taliban attacked a checkpoint at night, and the army quickly counterattacked. The pursuit continues.

February 18, 2011: Pakistani politicians are upset that the $3 billion in American aid for the next year is mainly going to the military, and comes with strings (cut corruption, tax the rich, who often pay nothing at all). The U.S. is the largest aid donor, but all this pressure to attack Islamic radicals and stop diverting aid to private use is annoying.





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