India-Pakistan: The Silence


September 8, 2012: The investigation into the terrorist attack on a Pakistani air base last month revealed that the attackers had the cooperation of military personnel at the air base.  The August 16th attack largely failed (it damaged some aircraft and killed two security personnel and nine attackers) but the fact that the terrorists got as far as they did (past two of the three layers of security around the base) was disturbing.

This raises the question of how vulnerable other well-guarded targets are. If the military cannot protect its most important bases how vulnerable are Pakistani civilians to another campaign of terror attacks. Usually the Islamic terrorists confine their attacks to the tribal territories (which the Pakistani Taliban wants to conquer first, before going after the rest of Pakistan). In the past Islamic terror groups have gone after targets outside the tribal territories and threaten to do so again because of threats to North Waziristan. The Pakistani media is blaming American media for all this unrest in North Waziristan because it was U.S. news outlets that first announced possible Pakistani agreement to clean the terrorists out of North Waziristan. The Pakistani military leaders were quick to deny such a deal. The August 16th attack shocked Pakistani generals once the investigation began and there is again talk, in Pakistan, of invading North Waziristan. At least 72 people have been arrested in connection with the attack and interrogations of these suspects revealed that the attack was ordered and planned by Taliban based in North Waziristan and that the Taliban had the help of Taliban members who belonged to the armed forces.

One source of pro-Taliban military personnel is the years of warplane and artillery attacks in the tribal territories. These kill a lot of civilians and the government plays down those losses. At most, the army will report Taliban fighters killed and ignore any civilian casualties. But the kin of the dead do not forget and many of them are in the armed forces.

Iran doesn't have many friends and it likes to maintain good ties with the few it has, like Pakistan. But this is becoming difficult because of the increasing number of attacks by Pakistani Sunni Islamic terrorists against Pakistani Shia. There has always been some of this violence in Pakistan but so far this year over 300 Pakistani Shia have been killed. Pakistan has the second largest Shia population (50 million) of any nation. Iran, a largely Shia country feels a responsibility to come to the defense of Shia everywhere. The growing violence against Pakistani Shia has resulted in growing calls for Iran to speak out and pressure Pakistan to provide more protection. But Iran apparently feels it needs good relations with Pakistan more than it needs fewer murdered Pakistani Shia. Thus Iran is not very popular among Pakistani Shia and this is making Iran look bad among Shia populations all over the world.

For the last two weeks several hundred Pakistani Taliban from Afghanistan has been attacking military and police in the Bajur region of Pakistan (north of North Waziristan). Also under attack are pro-government tribesmen who helped the Pakistani Army force the Taliban out of the area over the last few years. Rather than flee to North Waziristan, the local Taliban found it easier to set up new bases across the border in Afghanistan. That sparsely populated region (Kunar province) has plenty of hills and forests to hide in and few roads to bring in a lot of Afghan soldiers or police. NATO and Afghan forces are more concerned with terrorists based in Pakistan who are carrying out attacks in Afghanistan but have increased patrols and raids in Kunar. This has led to heavy losses among Pakistani Taliban (and other Islamic terror groups) in Kunar this year. Many Pakistani Taliban appear to have returned to Pakistan, in part because it's less dangerous dealing with the Pakistani Army. The situation will become critical when the cold weather arrives and the Pakistan Taliban will have to find shelter on either side of the border. That will make them easier to find and attack. The question is, which side of the border will they try to use to spend the Winter.

If the Pakistani Taliban decides to stay out of Afghanistan, then the Pakistani Army will have lost its main excuse for not clearing terrorist sanctuaries out of North Waziristan. It's likely the Pakistani generals will come up with another excuse to not move on North Waziristan. Over the years this dispute has led to many heated, and largely secret, meetings between American and Pakistani officials. The Pakistanis complain that their national territory and honor are being violated by American operations (UAVs and especially the raid to kill Osama bin Laden) against al Qaeda in Pakistan. The U.S. officials tell the Pakistanis that the American people want justice for the 3,000 Americans killed on September 11, 2001 and that if Pakistan wants to take on the United States over this matter, that is their decision to make. The U.S. senior officials are also blunt, in private meetings with their Pakistani counterparts, about all the official (and public) lies Pakistan uses to deny any connection with bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists. It's an open secret in Pakistan that the government, or at least the military, supports some Islamic terror groups. The Pakistanis often fall silent when their American counterparts list the evidence they have of Pakistani lying. The Pakistanis, at most, will plead difficulties with domestic politics and the fact that many Pakistanis support Islamic terrorism as long as it does not involve attacks on Pakistanis. The Americans point out that the Pakistan military began supporting Islamic terrorists in the 1970s and that brings more silence from the Pakistani side. Pakistan has put itself in an impossible situation that can only be resolved by either going to war with America or with all the Islamic terrorists it has created and sheltered over the last four decades. The Pakistanis are getting even more nervous because the Americans are insisting that Mullah Omar (the head of the Afghan Taliban) is living in Pakistan. This has been an open secret for over a decade and the Pakistanis fear another American raid to capture or kill Omar.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Army has been active in South Waziristan for the last two weeks, inflicting hundreds of losses (casualties and arrested) on Islamic terrorists who are trying to expand their safe-havens in North Waziristan. Meanwhile a growing number of civilians in North Waziristan are fleeing the area in fear of major military operations.  

September 4, 2012: Afghanistan is again complaining to Pakistan about rockets fired into Kunar province. Afghan officials claim that over 80 rockets have been fired across the Pakistani border in the last two days. The Pakistanis either deny it happened or that, if it did (and the Afghans have plenty of rocket parts as evidence), that it was Islamic terrorists. The Pakistanis are firing at suspected Pakistani Taliban camps or villages believed to be sheltering the Islamic terrorists.

India and China have agreed to resume joint military exercises. These had been suspended two years ago because of very public Chinese claims on Indian territory. The claims remain but the Chinese are no longer releasing press releases about the issue. The Chinese are also trying to halt the growth of an international coalition opposing Chinese claims on all of the South China Sea.

September 3, 2012: In the Pakistani tribal territories a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy containing U.S. diplomats. Two Pakistanis were killed and 17 wounded. Two Americans were hurt but none were killed.

September 1, 2012: In North Waziristan an American UAV fired missiles that killed five Islamic terrorists and wounded several others.

August 31, 2012: The Pakistani Taliban released a video of what they claim is the beheading of 12 captured Pakistani soldiers. The army had recently reported 15 of its soldiers missing. Elsewhere in the tribal territories (the town of Matani) a car bomb went off in a market place, killing eleven.

August 29, 2012: The Red Cross has halted operations in Pakistan because of the recent murder, by Islamic terrorists, of one of its doctors. The Red Cross rarely suspends operations, even in war zones, but in this case the close links of the Pakistani military with terrorist groups, and continued threats to Red Cross personnel, have created an unprecedented danger.




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