India-Pakistan: The Fright Of The Generals


November 27, 2011:  Pakistan has held secret peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban in the last few months. Not much came of it. The Taliban demanded the army withdraw from South Waziristan and, in effect, turn border security over to the Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban said they would reduce terror attacks in Pakistan, but no one believed that. The Pakistani Taliban claims to have regained control of much of the tribal territories, including the Swat Valley (right outside the tribal territories). This is propaganda, not reality. The Pakistani Taliban still have armed men in many parts of the tribal territories, often operating from bases across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban are still very much at war with Pakistan, and are loudly striving to "avenge" the death of Osama bin Laden, and other foreign terrorists who had come to help the Pakistani Taliban. The major problem with making peace with the Taliban is that it has been done several times before, and the Taliban always broke the truce and used the peace process as a tool to fight the military.

Pakistanis are talking more about the dominant influence their military has over how the country is run. Talking, but not doing anything about it. The army has the guns and the determination to give up none of their power and privileges. More importantly, the military has control of a large chunk of the economy and the loyalty of much of the population. This is due to military control of many media outlets and journalists, and decades of propaganda that has turned India into a threat that it is not and the Pakistani military into a national asset, which it is not.

Normally, the military prefers to have a compliant civilian government run things, with the generals having veto power and a discreet say in major decisions. When there is a dispute, the military will take over. This last happened in 1999, after the government tried to remove the head of the military because the army had, on its own, started a war with India. It was not a big war, and began when the military escalated the assistance it was giving Islamic terrorists it helped train in Pakistan, and then get across the border into Indian Kashmir. Pakistan lost this war, as it has lost all its wars with India. In response to the civilian government attempting to control the military, the generals took control of the government, and held onto it for the next nine years. Now the military threatens to take control again, if they do not get their way.

In Pakistan's Sind province, rail lines were broken in three places by bombs. There were no injuries and Islamic terrorists were suspected.

In eastern India, anti-Maoist operations continue, with troops rarely encountering the leftist rebels. When the paramilitary battalions move into a Maoist held area, the only opposition they encounter is roadside bombs and mines. So the police have learned to look for the bombs and mines. The Maoists expect to stop the police offensive with guerilla tactics. But this is proving difficult, as the police have air support to find Maoist camps, which are then attacked. This keeps the Maoist forces off-balance. So far this year, Maoist related violence is down 24 percent. But the police also bring with them corrupt local officials and businessmen, which turns off the local population and maintains some local support for the leftist rebels.

November 26, 2011: On the Afghan border, NATO aircraft and helicopter gunships attacked two Pakistani border posts, killing 28 Pakistani troops and border guards. Exactly what happened is still unclear, but the Pakistani military media machine promptly declared it to be a NATO attack on Pakistan. This forced the Pakistani government to close the two main supply routes carrying NATO supplies to Afghanistan and order the U.S. to leave a Pakistani air base. All this has happened before, and eventually the supply routes are reopened. That's because moving NATO supplies is a big business in Pakistan, and much of that business is at risk. That is because of delays and thefts, which have caused most of that traffic to move to Central Asia. Eventually, nearly all the supplies will come in from the north. The more Pakistan messes with that traffic, the faster they will lose what trucking business they still have from NATO. Pakistan has ordered the U.S. out of those airbases in the past, but nothing ever happens. Nevertheless, the U.S. has been moving UAV operations to Afghanistan anyway. The Pakistanis cannot be trusted, especially along the border. Since the border guards and paramilitary police in the tribal territory are recruited from the tribes, the Taliban can also recruit, bribe or coerce these troops to fire on NATO and Afghan forces. Border patrol bases are often used for this, and NATO air strikes and artillery will be used to support the NATO and Afghan ground troops that are under attack. Since Pakistan officially denies that their paramilitary forces often work for the Taliban, they declare that the casualties from NATO forces defending themselves are "unprovoked attacks on Pakistan." That fiction works for a while in the Pakistani media, but most Pakistanis know better.

The Indian Army and Air Force are fighting over army plans to enlarge its own air force of helicopters, light transports and UAVs. The army is winning this battle, in part because it can point to similar clashes in other countries, and how things work out better when the army gets control of aircraft it works most closely with most of the time.  The Indian Air Force, like air forces everywhere, wants to control everything that flies.

November 25, 2011: In Kashmir, Pakistani troops fired on three Indian border posts. Indian troops returned fire and it was all over in about an hour. There were no casualties. India has long complained about these attacks, which are often used to distract Indian border forces so that Pakistani Islamic terrorists can sneak across the border to carry out attacks in India.

In northwest India, five soldiers were seized for killing five gazelle (for the meat). The gazelle were on the endangered species list. Troops are sometimes allowed to hunt, but local and international laws must be obeyed.

November 24, 2011: In Pakistan, some Taliban leaders say that peace talks with the government have officially begun. The government is demanding that serious negotiations can only begin when the Taliban have surrendered their heavy weapons and surplus (to self-defense needs) small arms. Few Taliban factions are willing to do this, making serious peace negotiations unlikely. But there are many Taliban factions who want a halt to army operations in the tribal territories and are willing to make deals. This fighting has found the Taliban at a serious disadvantage. It's not like the old days, when the tribesmen had a tactical (they knew the territory) and mobility (they could march quickly across the roadless terrain) advantage. Now the military has F-16s equipped with reconnaissance pods and smart bombs, in addition to artillery and lots of (transport and gunship) helicopters. The army controls the roads, and thus the transport of goods, including food and medicine, to the tribes. The army was seizing Taliban camps in the area. The Pakistani Air Force has, for the last two years, had better sensors and is able to find Taliban hideouts more frequently. The army has helicopter transports and gunships that can quickly reach Taliban camps no matter how far they are from roads. All this puts the Taliban at a big disadvantage, especially in areas where the Taliban is unpopular (most of the tribal territories) and cannot trust to locals to keep quiet about terrorist activities. While the Taliban are still attacking, they are also losing.  

In eastern India (West Bengal State) police cornered and killed the chief Maoist military commander; Kishenji.  The powerful Indian Communist Party and celebrity Maoist fans accused the police of murdering Kishenji and pretending that the Maoist celebrity was killed in battle. This has happened in the past.

November 23, 2011: In Pakistan's tribal territories, ten Taliban attacked a police station, killed two policemen, but then retreated after several hours of fighting.

November 22, 2011: In southwest Pakistan, a convoy of paramilitary troops was ambushed by Baluchi tribal rebels, leaving 14 soldiers dead.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani resigned, after having served for three years. Haqqani is accused of writing a memo last May, after Osama bin Laden was found and killed inside Pakistan by U.S. commandos. The memo was delivered to the head of the American military (admiral Mullen) by a Pakistani businessman. The unsigned memo asked for the U.S. to back an effort by the civilian government in Pakistan to get the Pakistani military out of politics and under control. Mullen did nothing, apparently believing the memo was another plot by the Pakistani military. But then a Pakistani made the memo public and now Haqqani is being accused of treason. Haqqani has denied any connection with the memo, which is now seen as an effort by the military to get Haqqani removed as ambassador. His replacement was a pro-military journalist.  

November 21, 2011: In northwest Pakistan (Orakzai and Kurram), along the Afghan border, troops and Taliban clashed, leaving two army officers and dozens of Taliban dead.



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close