April 7, 2016:
Indian defense spending rose less than one percent in 2015 (to $51 billion) but that was enough to put in sixth place among national defense budgets worldwide. India is increasing defense spending six percent in 2016 (to about $54 billion). China’s defense spending ($214 billion) is four times larger while Pakistan ($7.5 billion) is one seventh the size of India’s. Defense spending in South Asia has risen nearly 50 percent since 2001. The main cause is the aggressive territorial claims of China and the continuing belief in the Pakistani military that India is engaged in a well concealed plot to take over Pakistan.
The biggest security problem for India is internal. In eastern India deaths related to Maoist violence are up so far in 2016 and about half those deaths are in Chhattisgarh State, where the Maoists are strongest and most active. Only a quarter of the terrorist deaths each year are caused by Islamic terrorists and nearly all of that violence is in Kashmir. Violence is down in Kashmir this year. In the northeast the largest source (38 percent) of terrorism deaths nationwide (tribal rebels) are declining. The Maoists see themselves as facing extinction (communism as a global movement died in the 1990s) and the remaining ones in eastern India are trying real hard to survive.
The latest India-China dispute is over Chinese support for Pakistani supported Islamic terrorists operating in India. Pakistan officially denies that this support exists but India, Afghanistan and the United States believe otherwise. So does China, but Pakistan needs Chinese military and economic support and after years of pressure from China actually managed to eliminate all Islamic terrorist threats to China within Pakistan. So now China is apparently returning the favor by blocking an Indian effort to add another Pakistan based Islamic terrorist leader placed on the UN list of international terrorists. People on the list are subject to all manner of economic sanctions not to mention considerable difficulty in travelling outside Pakistan.
The Hunt For The Hated ISIL
Afghanistan believes it has driven ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) out of all the villages it controlled in the east, near the Pakistan border. ISIL was attracting many of the most fanatic Islamic terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan and at its peak in 2015 was believed to have as many as 3,000 members, most of them in Afghanistan. These men are attracted to the ISIL view of the world. For example ISIL insists that the Pakistani military controls the Afghan Taliban as well as Islamic terrorist groups based in Pakistan that mainly operate inside India. These accusations are nothing new but they are the reason ISIL considers Pakistan un-Islamic and worthy of some lethal retribution delivered by ISIL. To underscore that ISIL has been carrying out suicide bomber attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So far there have been few such attacks because ISIL is under attack by Afghan and Pakistani security forces as well as rival Islamic terrorist groups. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are actually cooperating when it comes to ISIL, which is also hated and hunted by other Islamic terrorist groups.
For most of 2015 ISIL has been trying to establish a base area in eastern Afghanistan (mainly Nangarhar Province) but that has led to constant skirmishing with Pakistani Taliban hiding out there. The local tribes are also largely hostile to ISIL and all this has provided better intel for the security forces on what ISIL is up to and exactly where they are. Some of the tribes used their own militias to fight ISIL but more often just helped villages set up defenses to keep ISIL out. This cooperation (and information) led to more effective and frequent American air strikes and raids by Afghan troops and American commandos and hundreds of ISIL men have been killed and many more wounded. Many of the wounded desert and there are fewer new volunteers. ISIL is hanging on but is now out of all the 22 villages it occupied at the start of the year. ISIL is not dead in Afghanistan but it isn’t growing much either. There may still be a thousand or more living rough up in the hills and they can survive there until the cold weather returns. These remaining ISIL get little sympathy from the locals, many of whom have bitter stories to tell of harsh ISIL rule that included beheadings of most who resisted and imposition of strict lifestyle rules. This included closing all secular schools as well as religious schools and mosques that did not enthusiastically support ISIL. These lurid (and often true) stories are circulating throughout eastern Afghanistan making the region a no-go zone for ISIL.
Pakistan The Stubborn And Silent
Pakistan is still being pressured to crack down on all Islamic terror groups in the country but refuses to do so, or even admit what it is doing (or not doing in this case). The U.S., India and Afghanistan all have evidence that Pakistan still provides sanctuary for Islamic terrorists that concentrate their attacks on Afghanistan (Afghan Taliban, some Pakistani Taliban factions, and Haqqani Network) and India (several groups based mainly in the northeast). Pakistan denies providing this sanctuary despite ample evidence. The Americans don’t believe Pakistan and fear that much of the military aid provided to Pakistan for counter-terrorism work is going to end up on the Indian border where Pakistan continues to attack Indian border posts while insisting the Indians shot first. The Americans are so incensed over this that they have added additional conditions and monitoring requirements to future military aid and will, as they have in the past, halt that aid if the Pakistani generals do not comply in some very obvious fashion. The continuing Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan has disrupted Islamic terrorist operations in the area and “protected” Islamic terrorists like Haqqani Network and Pakistani Taliban moved many of their bases into Afghanistan. This angered Afghanistan a great deal because it soon became apparent that the Pakistani military was still allowing Haqqani Network and “good” Pakistani Taliban forces to move freely in and out of Pakistan. The “good” Pakistani Taliban moved to other areas of the northwest and provided some sanctuary for members of the “bad” (attacking Pakistani targets”) Taliban if there was a tribal connection. The Pakistani government ignored this because there are some things you cannot change in the tribal territories. The Pakistani Army offensive in North Waziristan seems to be stuck on “95 percent complete” with combat continuing in the Shawal valley (about 100 kilometers southwest of Miramshah, the largest city in North Waziristan). Shawal has long been one of the most popular areas for Islamic terrorists in North Waziristan. The valley is rugged, remote and hard for troops to operate in. Pakistani bombers and American UAVs are still hitting the valley hard because it is one of the few places in North Waziristan where Islamic terrorists are still active, in part because the Afghanistan border is so close. The American UAVs also noted which “protected” Islamic terrorists were still quietly moving through North Waziristan without being bothered by the many soldiers and police there.
Meanwhile Islamic terrorism continues to decline in Pakistan. In the first three months of 2016 there were 32 bombing (six involving a suicidal terrorist) in Pakistan which left 174 dead and over 500 wounded. Since the March 27 bombing in Lahore the military has moved some counter-terrorism operations to Punjab and, in effect, expanded the North Waziristan offensive to Punjab because, since the North Waziristan offensive began in mid-2014 it was obvious that some Islamic terrorist groups had moved to other parts of Pakistan and that Punjab (especially its capital of Lahore) and the port of Karachi (to the south in Sindh province) were favorite destinations. Since the recent Lahore attack nation-wide efforts to find and arrest those responsible has led to the arrest of over 700 suspects and the death of eleven Islamic terrorists who fired back when facing arrest.
The operations in North Waziristan continue and so far this year are still generating fifty or more casualties (most of them Islamic terrorists, real or suspected) a week. Since mid-2014 the North Waziristan offensive has resulted in (according to unverified military reports) over 3,400 Islamic terrorists killed, more than a thousand captured at a cost of nearly 500 soldiers killed and nearly 2,000 wounded.
The impact of the operations in North Waziristan have not reduced Islamic terrorist violence in other parts of the country. Thus in in the southwest (Baluchistan) where most of the violence has come from tribal separatists little has changed. Until recently about 10-15 percent of the nationwide terrorist deaths were in Baluchistan but as Islamic terrorist activity is crushed in many parts of the country (and Islamic terrorist attacks fall by over 50 percent) there is no such decline in the Baluchistan violence. So without much publicity Pakistan has shifted more of the security forces to Baluchistan and the two most populous provinces (Punjab and Sindh). Most of the Islamic terrorism comes from the Pushtun tribes. The Pushtun are 15 percent of the population and mainly live in the north and east, along the Afghan border. The Baluchi tribes are four percent of the population and most are in the southwest. Both Pushtuns and Baluchis do not get along with the majority Punjabis (45 percent of the population) or Sindhis (14 percent) in the eastern lowlands. The resulting violence has been going for over a thousand years and now some of the Pushtun Islamic terrorists chased out of the northwest are moving to Punjab and Sindh.
The Other Pakistan
Bangladesh is under growing popular pressure to do something about increasingly active Islamic terrorists who attack local Christians (especially those who used to be Moslems) and anyone who criticizes Islamic terrorism (especially via the Internet). Only about one percent of the population is Christian (and eight percent Hindu) the majority (nearly 90 percent) are Moslem. While a minority of those Moslems are sympathetic to Islamic terrorists who are “defending Islam” the majority of the 15o million Bangladeshi Moslems oppose this and are becoming more active in trying to eliminate Islamic terrorism in the country. Actually Bangladesh has far less Islamic terrorism activity than most other Moslem nations. For example, with 75 percent of the population of Pakistan (which is used to be part of until 1971) it has less than two percent as many Islamic terrorism related deaths. Bangladesh had 56 Islamic terrorism related deaths in 2015, down from 60 in 2014 and a record 379 in 2013. The 2013 surge was 69 percent of all Islamic terrorist deaths since 2005 and a sign that Islamic terrorism continues to have a difficult time getting a foothold in Bangladesh. Actually most of the terrorism related deaths were political rather than religious but in the last few years Islamic terrorism has gotten a lot more attention in the news. The government is also increasing its cooperation with India and the United States in identifying and tracking Islamic terrorists. Its efforts like this that have kept Islamic terrorist activity low in Bangladesh.
India is building a fence along about six percent of its 4,100 kilometer Bangladesh border. This is not to keep Islamic terrorists out but to hinder illegal migration and the movement of tribal rebels back and forth. Thus the fence will only be along the border of Assam State, which has the worst tribal separatist problem in the northwest. The fence is supposed to be completed by the end of 2016.
April 6, 2016: In the Pakistani port of Karachi police found and killed two local Islamic terrorists who had joined ISIL and were found to be planning attacks in Karachi. ISIL has been trying to establish a presence in Karachi for over a year but so far has not been able to create a group of that can survive constant police scrutiny.
April 2, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) troops captured senior Taliban commander Ahmad Mehsud. This was unexpected because Ahmad Mehsud was thought to be hiding out across the border in Afghanistan.
March 31, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) police were called to the scene of a large explosion. The bomb experts concluded that the explosives were inside a car moving along the road. The explosion tore the car, and its four passengers, to pieces. Apparently the four men were Islamic terrorists transporting the explosives to where they would be used for an attack. Sloppy handling of explosives, and incidents like this, are becoming increasingly common because of the emphasis on going after technical experts within Islamic terrorist organizations, especially bomb builders.
March 30, 2016: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) seven paramilitary police were killed when a large (at least 60 kg/110 pounds of explosives) remote control bomb buried under a road went off as a truck carrying twenty unarmed police, in civilian clothes passed by. The police were not on duty but the route was kept secret. The police are now trying to find out how the Maoists, who took credit for this attack, found out about when and where the truck was going. It was either an inside source or the Maoists had some other information gathering method.
In Lahore, Pakistan police clashed with armed Islamic terrorists and killed five of them. Since the Lahore bombing on the 27th police have questioned 7,600 people and arrested 2.5 percent of them.
March 29, 2016: Iran and Pakistan have signed a number of new economic and border security agreements. The economic deals relate to increasing trade with Iran now that international sanctions are being lifted. The border agreements mean to make it difficult for smugglers, tribal rebels and Islamic terrorists from easily moving back and forth.
March 27, 2016: In northern Pakistan (Lahore, capital of Punjab province) a Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber attacked a park area full women and children and killed 76 people and wounded over 300. While the main target was Christian families celebrating Easter Sunday, most of the casualties were Moslems enjoying the park and its play areas for children. The Taliban took credit for the attack and declared that it was revenge for recent laws passed by Pakistan to protect women and the continued government policy of tolerating non-Moslems in Pakistan (which means, literally, “land of the pure”, pure as in all Moslem according to many Moslems). Most Pakistanis were horrified at the Lahore attack and the government reacted quickly. Within 48 hours over 5,000 suspected Islamic terrorists or supporters were arrested in Punjab. The investigation continues.
March 23, 2016: The main Taliban dissident faction denied that their leader, Mullah Rasool, had been arrested in Pakistan.
The long-sought peace talks with the Taliban seem to be dead although the government is still talking with some non-Taliban terrorist leaders. Some Taliban factions are still negotiating but not the Taliban as a whole. For one thing the Taliban are even more divided than ever and some factions are fighting each other. Then there is the issue of Pakistani domination which Pakistan (very much in favor of a negotiated peace) denies even though Pakistan created the Taliban and now admits that it has provided a sanctuary (in Quetta) across the border from Helmand since 2002. The current Taliban civil war has led several prominent Taliban to talk openly about continued Pakistani influence over and support of the organization.