Pakistan has accepted an American offer to cooperate and quickly deal with any cross border activity in eastern Afghanistan that results in Islamic terror attacks in Pakistan. Earlier in the week the U.S. military commander in the region offered a solution and told Pakistan that American forces would be made available to deal with any Islamic terrorist groups Pakistan feels are hiding in eastern Afghanistan and have, increasingly, been attacked with Pakistani artillery fire (rockets, mortars and howitzers firing across the border). Afghans feel the Pakistanis will invent an excuse to reject or sabotage the American offer because over the years Afghans in borders areas regularly hit by the Pakistani rockets and shells have told Afghan and American Special Forces troops that the Pakistanis often fire when there is no one out there or after anti-Pakistan Islamic terrorists have passed through the area days or weeks earlier. Sparely populated regions like Kunar province have plenty of hills and forests to hide in, and few roads to quickly bring in a lot of Afghan soldiers or police. The American offer is backed by the fact that the U.S. has helicopters, UAVs and other aircraft available to quickly act on Pakistani complaints. This could get interesting.
Pakistan knows a lot of its complaints are fiction. Pakistan has been firing into Kunar since 2010 in an effort to hit real or suspected Pakistani Taliban bases in Afghanistan. This sort of thing disrupted economic activity, especially farming. Pakistan often denies the attacks, even though the Afghans have plenty of evidence (in the form of fragments of Pakistani made rockets and shells). Some Afghans believed the Pakistanis were often firing their artillery to provide cover for Pakistan based terrorists to get into Afghanistan without being detected by Afghan security forces. The firing might also have been to provide cover for smugglers, especially drug smugglers. The fact is this has always been a strange place and the local tribes see the border (still disputed by both Afghanistan and Pakistan) as part of the problem. Most of the shells land in uninhabited areas and do not harm crops or herds. But the farms and domesticated animals are hit often enough to keep the locals angry at the Pakistani government. This latest round of firing destroyed one farm building, wounded one farmer and killed some cattle along with tearing up some farmland.
This deal comes after the United States sent senior diplomatic officials to Pakistan in October to review the situation and make the usual promises and demands. The U.S. said it would not allow any group, including Indian agents, to make attacks on Pakistan from bases in Afghanistan. Pakistan assured the United States that if provided with accurate information Pakistani forces would deal with any hostile (to the United States, Afghanistan or India) organization inside Pakistan. In the past this has meant that Pakistan would act on targets identified by the Americans (or Indians or Afghans) only if the results would not be embarrassing for Pakistan. That made it possible for Pakistan to continue blaming the U.S., India and Afghanistan for making possible Islamic terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. This vicious circle resists being broken, despite the 2011 American raid on the bin Laden hideout in Pakistan and numerous instances of India providing very precise evidence about Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan and the mayhem these groups have carried out in India. There is no end to this sort of thing. Except this time the U.S. has promised direct action if it detects another “bin Laden is not in Pakistan” deception.
A current example involves a similar situation, except Pakistan acted but the United States is still trying to get Pakistan to admit what the Americans now know was actually going on. For nearly a month now the American CIA and their Pakistani counterpart (ISI) have been arguing over what exactly happened to the kidnapped American-Canadian family Pakistani troops freed from the Haqqani Network on October 12th. Everyone agrees that the family was held captive for five years but the ISI insists they were held in Afghanistan while the CIA says it has evidence that the family was held in Pakistan nearly all that time. Pakistan has long denied any connection with Haqqani, much less control of the group, but there is much evidence that ISI works closely with Haqqani. This entire incident is suspect and as more details leak out it becomes stranger still.
The Pakistani military, which has long carried out its own foreign policy (often separate from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry), believes it has allies who are wealthy, reliable and powerful enough to withstand the growing threats from the U.S., India, Afghanistan and most of the world. The threat is mainly in the form of accusations that Pakistan continues to promote Islamic terrorism, mainly against neighboring Afghanistan and India. The Pakistani military is guilty but they have allies like China and Saudi Arabia to call on.
Pakistan is depending more on alliances with China and Saudi Arabia in part because of poverty. In 2016 India spent $56 billion on defense, the fifth largest defense budget on the planet (behind the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia). Pakistan barely makes the top 20 with $10 billion a year. Indian spending is 3.3 percent of GDP while Pakistan is 2.7 percent. But China and the Saudis are major military powers, at least on paper.
The Saudi relationship goes way back. The Pakistani military has had close ties with the Saudis since the 1950s. Pakistan was always considered a good source of qualified, reliable and Moslem foreign workers (and soldiers). Currently there are over three million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia and some have been there for over a decade.
As the current religious war between Iran and Saudi Arabia became more intense Iran tried to persuade Pakistan to abandon Saudi Arabia as an ally and work closely with Iran instead. The Pakistani military did not want to say no but at the same time they could not even indicate any possible disloyalty towards the Saudis. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are Sunni majority states with significant Shia minorities. While some Pakistani officials favor more cooperation with Iran most Pakistanis do not. But Pakistan does not consider itself “owned” by the Saudis. For example in June 2017 Saudi Arabia told Pakistan it had to choose a side in the current Saudi feud with Qatar. Pakistan said it was remaining neutral and the Saudis didn’t press the issue, at least not in public.
The Pakistanis had already made their loyalties quite clear. Since early 2017
Raheel Sharif, a retired Pakistani general has been in Saudi Arabia to lead the IMAFT (Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism). He joins 1,200 Pakistani military personnel already there to train Saudi troops. Founded (in late 2015) IMAFT is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, as are the Pakistani trainers in Saudi Arabia. At first Pakistan was reluctant to participate in IMAFT but eventually joined the other 40 members. Raheel was selected to lead IMAFT in January 2017 but not everyone in Pakistan was comfortable with that and it took several months to get Pakistani government approval. When Saudi Arabia announced IMAFT it named 34 Moslem nations (Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Qatar, the Palestinians, Pakistan, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, the UAE, and Yemen) as members. Indonesia, largest Moslem nation on the planet, was described as considering joining. The nation with the largest number of Moslems, India, was apparently not invited to join. All the current members are largely Sunni. Some nations are not welcome, like Iran, Syria and Iraq. This is because the Sunni Gulf States (led by Saudi Arabia) are at war with Iran, which considers Syria and Iraq allies. Pakistan has not announced exactly what it would do as part of this new coalition but did make it clear it will not take part in any operations against Iran or Syria. Such compromises were required to get enough senior Pakistani politicians and generals to agree. The Saudis, and many senior Pakistani politicians and generals are backing a proposal that 5,000 Pakistani troops be leased to the Saudis to help guard their Yemen border.
The primary contact for the Pakistan generals in all this was the Saudi Defense minister Mohammed bin Salman who is also the crown prince (and about to take power as his father abdicates) and forceful modernizer. Salman recently staged a massive anti-corruption operation in which hundreds of powerful Saudis were charged with corruption and most of them were jailed or “detailed.” Implicit in all this is the possibility that Salman will be able to control the Islamic terrorist threat that the Saudi family played a major role in creating and sustaining. Pakistan has been one of the many victims.
For example when the British colonial rulers left in 1947 t
he Sufi sect of Islam was dominant in Pakistan, but since the 1980s more militant forms of Islamic have proliferated with the support of the military. This was fostered by missionaries and money from Saudi Arabia, who preached intolerance and violence against non-Moslems and Moslems who are not extreme enough. This extremist form of Islam has been a major factor in preventing India and Pakistan from making peace. According to Islamic radicals, Hindus are the worst kind of infidel (non-Moslem) because, unlike Christians and Jews, they have no common religious roots with Islam. Actually, Hindus do, as there was a lot of Hindu influence in Arabia when Islam was founded 1,400 years ago, but the founders of Islam choose not to openly recognize their Hindu roots. Thus the harder line on Hindus. In Pakistan the growing number of Islamic terrorist attacks on non-Sunni Moslems (especially Shia and Sufi) is very unpopular with most Pakistanis, even those who are not Shia or Sufi. About ten percent of Pakistanis are Shia (mostly) or Sufi but because of the long history of Sufism in Pakistan there are dozens of major Sufi holy places (usually tombs of prominent Sufis) there that attract many visitors from Pakistan and foreign countries. Prince Salman is not hostile to foreign influences and in early 2017, after he had been appointed Crown Prince, noted that without the American cultural influences the Saudi kingdom might well have developed into something like North Korea. His grandfather founded Saudi Arabia in 1932 and had to struggle with Islamic radicalism and corruption from the beginning. None of the sons who succeeded the founder took the Islamic terrorism and corruption as seriously (and in public) as the current crown prince.
Death Rates Dropping
Pakistan still leads the region in Islamic terrorist related violence but also continues (since 2014) to reduce the Islamic terrorism related deaths which will be down a third in 2017. The anti-Pakistan Islamic terror groups have adapted to three years of heavy attack by the security forces and demonstrated their capabilities by remaining active in 2017, but not as active as previous years. There was a spike in Islamic terrorism related deaths in February (114 civilians, 23 soldiers and police and 125 Islamic terrorists) but that has since declined. The total Islamic terrorism related deaths for all of 2016 was 1,803 (150 a month), compared to 3,682 (300 a month) for 2015. Until the wave of attacks in February Pakistan expected to have, for the first time since 2005, a year where there were under a thousand Islamic terrorism related deaths. That is not going to happen in 2017 because during the first ten months of the year there have been nearly 1,100 terrorism related deaths and for the year the monthly average will be about 100 dead. If these trends continues there may well be record low numbers of terror victims in 2018. Back in 2005 there were 648 dead (54 a month) and in 2003 only 189 (16 a month) and the post 2005 rise in terror attacks inside Pakistan was blamed on the Americans, India and non-Moslems in general. Meanwhile India, with six times as many people, has kept annual terrorism (mostly not Islam related) to under a thousand a year since 2012.
Pakistan won’t take credit for the increased terrorism related deaths in Kashmir this year. Yet even with that India is on track to have another year of low (about 700) terrorist related deaths in 2017. In fact the nationwide Indian deaths are back to 2015 (under 700 deaths) levels, after a spike (to 900) in 2016. That spike was largely the work of Pakistan along the Kashmir border and inside Indian Kashmir. Bangladesh has also seen a 2017 decline (about 40 percent) in terrorism deaths. The one common factor in all these countries is the number of local Islamic terrorists who, when taken alive often boast of the support (training, equipment, sanctuary) they received from Pakistan.
Afghanistan, Pakistan And Baluchistan
Meanwhile one very tangible Pakistani achievement along its Afghan border was the recent completion of the first 43 kilometers of its new security fence along the border. The fence consists of two three-meter (nine foot) high chain link fences running parallel, two meters apart, with three rolls of barbed wire in that two meter gap. Construction began in South Waziristan (which borders Afghanistan’s Paktika province and Pakistan’s Baluchistan, where the Afghan Taliban still maintain a sanctuary). The fence construction was announced in March 2017 and will eventually extend along the entire 2,600 kilometer border with Afghanistan. This is part of an effort to hinder the Pakistani Taliban, and other illegal groups (terrorists and smugglers) from easily moving back and forth. After the Paktika portion of the fence is completed construction will continue along the border with the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar. These provinces are where there has always been a lot of lawless activity and these days it is full of Islamic terrorists hostile to either Pakistan or working for Pakistan (against Afghanistan). The new plan will continue giving priority to areas where there are the most problems but will not stop there and eventually (by the early 2020s) have a fence along the entire Afghan border.
Even without the fence the Pakistani military has been successful in reducing terrorist violence within Pakistan substantially since 2014, when it went after Islamic terror groups that made attacks inside Pakistan. There was a catch as the counter-terrorism effort left alone the Afghan Taliban sanctuary in in the southwest (Baluchistan) and several other groups that operated openly in various parts of Pakistan but always carried out attacks elsewhere (usually Afghanistan or India).
China Called To Account
China has a grand strategic economic plan involving Pakistan, Nepal and Burma and it’s unravelling. All three of these countries are pulling out of economic deals with China because the terms, as interpreted by China, are unacceptable. For the last few years Chinese officials have been describing their economic and military expansion plan internally as Obor (One Belt, One Road). Earlier in 2017 China went public with Obor via a PR campaign that described it as a revival of the ancient “Silk Road.” That’s not accurate as the ancient Silk Road was only partially run by the Chinese. Most of it was operated by other major powers (Iranian, Indian, Turks and Arabs) and was largely put out of business after the 16th century by European innovations in ship building and management of sea routes that provided a safer and cheaper way to move goods worldwide. Moreover, until the late 20th century Chinese leaders never encouraged (and often banned) foreign trade. For most of Chinese history the leaders believed China had all it needed (largely true) and considered all non-Chinese and their products inferior. The big change now is that China needs international trade and Obor is the Chinese plan to control as much of it as possible. This is essential for a prosperous economy because without that the communists are in big trouble. Obor means China owning or otherwise controlling as many of the new roads, railways, ports, pipelines and sea routes as possible. China is investing nearly $200 billion in Obor construction. This includes land routes through Central Asia to Europe and the Middle East, another through the Himalaya Mountains to the Indian Ocean (soon to be under new management if China has its way) and new land connections into Southeast Asia. The key to China’s new sea routes is asserting ownership of the South China Sea. Pakistan, Nepal and Burma are all demanding renegotiation of terms and rejecting Chinese interpretations of some of the deals. For example China assumed that trade along the Obor would accept the Chinese yuan as an international currency similar to the dollar, yen or euro. Many nations are not ready for that and let the Chinese know that when China tried to implement its interpretation of how the yuan was to be treated.
Another feature of Obor is that it offers business relationships that are more acceptable (than Western ones) to most of the areas Obor is investing in. The Chinese can, as they like to put it, be more flexible and respectful of local customs. In other words the Chinese don’t see bribes and corruption as a defect but an opportunity. This is great for the foreign political and business leaders but less so with most of the others and this is causing problems. Africans and Asians living near many Chinese foreign operations complain that China is the major investor in illegal extraction of raw materials and keeping local gangsters and corrupt politicians in business. The Chinese also violate local labor laws with impunity and often hire their own armed security personnel who will shoot to kill if threatened by angry workers or local residents. Keeping local tyrants in power serves Chinese interests when it comes to things like establishing new military bases or preventing other nations from doing so. Corrupt locals also make it easier to carry out espionage operations (locally or in nearby areas). Helping to keep unelected leaders in power also serves to maintain the legitimacy of the current Chinese government which is basically a communist police state and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) wants to keep it that way. All this is nothing new. For example once China got its seat in the UN back (from Taiwan) in 1971 it has been notorious for encouraging and using corrupt practices in the UN. Many nations play along and as China became wealthier they were willing and able to buy whatever they needed inside the UN. The latest example of this is how Chinese pressure has caused the UN to withdraw investigators (responding to local complaints of serious crimes) looking too closely at Chinese owned operations in Africa.
China and Pakistan are heavily publicizing the revival of this new Silk Road. In Pakistan the city of Peshawar, on the eastern end of the Khyber Pass, was a major gateway of the ancient Silk Road between China and the Middle East. But that version of the road went through the pass and into Afghanistan. The new Silk Road is not just Obor, in Pakistan it is officially called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is a complex piece of work. In 2013 China agreed to spend $18 billion to build a road from Gwadar and into northwest China. This will require drilling long tunnels through the Himalayan Mountains on the border (in Pakistani controlled Kashmir.) The road and a natural gas pipeline are part of the $46 billion CPEC project. This will make it much easier and cheaper to move people, data (via fiber optic cables) and goods between China and Pakistan. China also gets a 40 year lease on much of the port facilities at Gwadar, which India fears will serve as a base for Chinese warships. This is how China would like all of Obor to be but the rest of the world does not always cooperate.
This is especially true of Iran, which for centuries controlled a large portion of the Silk Road and profited from it. The Iranians don’t trust the Chinese and have made deals with India and Afghanistan to resurrect the ancient Iranian portion of the Silk Road and expand it a bit. This involves a new Iranian port on the Indian Ocean and a railroad and highway connection to Afghanistan and Central Asian railroads. Projects like this help keep the peace because they provide competition for projects like Obor, which are seen as an attempt to establish a cartel and then control trade and prices mainly to favor China.
While Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma regard China as an ally or, at the very least, nothing very menacing, India considers China its major military threat. The recent ten weeks stand off on the border at the Doklam plateau has led the Indian military to speed up the construction of new roads to the new military bases near the Chinese border in those areas where China claims large areas of India actually belong to China.
November 23, 2017: In Burma (Myanmar) an agreement was reached in which Burma would take back most of the 600,000 Burmese Rohingya Moslems that had fled to Bangladesh in the last year to get away from anti-Moslem violence in Burma. The details of this agreement are not all that clear but the deal is a step in the right direction. Meanwhile Bangladesh continues to have few problems with Islamic terrorism, with deaths from Islamic terrorist violence down by nearly half this year.
In northwest Pakistan police arrested five members of the Pakistani Taliban as a result of tips from local residents. Under questioning one of the five admitted who they were and what they were up to. He also disclosed where the weapons for these attacks were and the police moved quickly and found the hidden stockpile which contained 40 kg (88 pounds) of explosives, rifle ammo, ten grenades, 13 detonators and other bomb making equipment. The five were planning attacks on the polio vaccination effort and any other government operation they could get to. Vaccination teams are particularly vulnerable because they must visit the most remote and lawless areas to deliver the vaccination to vulnerable children. Parents tend to favor the vaccination and given the proliferation of cell phone service it is rather easy to call in or text a tip about some threat to the vaccination effort. The Afghan Taliban appear to have realized this but some of their Pakistani counterparts have not or just don’t care.
Because of this the Pakistani Taliban have become the major obstacle to finally wiping out polio. In the last decade the main obstacle has been Islamic terror groups who ban polio vaccinations and attack anyone trying to deliver the vaccine to vulnerable children. Islamic terrorists in general tend to believe the vaccination teams are spying for the government and that the vaccinations are a plot to sterilize Moslems. In Pakistan and Afghanistan there are still religious problems with vaccination. The Afghan Taliban now openly support the vaccination program but there still some rural areas where local Moslem clerics or teachers continue to denounce the vaccinations. There is a similar situation in Pakistan, where some fringe Islamic groups still try and kill members of the vaccination teams. Despite the death threats there is another major effort this year to vaccinate vulnerable Afghan and Pakistani children against polio. In 2016 there were 20 cases of polio in Pakistan and 13 in Afghanistan. There were four in Nigeria, a country that is expected to be free of polio this year or next. Despite this continued resistance polio cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to decline. For Afghanistan there have been at least six cases so far in 2017 compared to 13 for 2016. In Pakistan the situation is similar with about the same number of cases in 2017. Nevertheless the global vaccination effort has worked. In the 1980s, when the polio elimination effort began there were 350,000 cases in 125 countries. For the last several years there have been fewer than a hundred cases worldwide. After a few years of no reported cases polio will gone, as happened with smallpox in the 1970s.
November 22, 2017: In Pakistan a court rejected government arguments and ordered Islamic terrorist leader Hafiz Saeed freed from house arrest. This was a very unpopular decision inside Pakistan and around the world. Saeed is a known and quite notorious Islamic terrorist but since he works for the Pakistani military he is protected. Up to a point. In 2012 the U.S. announced a $10 million bounty for the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistani Islamic terrorist leader accused of organizing the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks as well as 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. India and the United States have presented compelling evidence to implicate Saeed, but the Pakistani government refuses to prosecute. Inside Pakistan, many politicians and media outlets admit that Saeed is a major Islamic terrorist leader and the man behind the Mumbai and numerous other atrocities. Saeed has dared the U.S. to come and get him, which the current American government might actually do. Saeed has long headed the Islamic terror group Lashkar i Taiba, which in turn was organized and long supported by the Pakistani military, mainly to organize and carry out terrorist attacks in India. Note that the reward offer is only good if Saeed is delivered alive. Since 2012 most countries have joined in declaring Saeed an international terrorist. In Pakistan this court decision is seen by many pro-democracy politicians as another sign that the military has intimidated or bribed enough judges to get court decisions like this on demand. The elected government of Pakistan agrees that Saeed and his ilk are Islamic terrorists (and part of the Pakistani military) but the Pakistani has long had a veto over the decisions of elected officials and has refused to subordinate itself to elected officials.
India successfully tested one of its Su-30MKI fighter bombers firing a Brahmos missile. Brahmos is a supersonic missile with a range of 290 kilometers and is a joint India-Russia version of the older Yakhont missile. It has been in service since 2009 and is available for use from land or ship based launchers as well as, after this test, from aircraft. Brahmos is expensive ($3 million each), weighs 2.4 tons and has a 300 kg (660 pound) warhead that comes in different versions for ship and land targets (like underground bunkers and the like). Earlier in 2017 Vietnam revealed it had purchased Brahmos anti-ship missiles from India, apparently for use by its Kilo class submarines.
November 20, 2017: China openly rejected recent Pakistani accusations that India was making a major effort (costing $500 million) to sabotage the $55 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that crosses much of Pakistan (from Pakistani Kashmir to Baluchistan). China has been blunt with Pakistan about Islamic terrorism inside Pakistan and its possible impact on CPEC. Apparently China has told Pakistan to keep this violence away from CPEC and no excuses (like “it’s an Indian conspiracy”). Pakistan, especially the military, has long blamed most of the Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan on India and other outsiders (like Israel). China insists that Pakistan be realistic about protecting CPEC from Islamic terrorism and not try and get China to support Pakistani fantasies. China knows where the Islamic terrorism coming from (the Pakistani military) and is willing to keep quiet about that as long as the Chinese CPEC investment and Chinese working on it in Pakistan are left alone.
Two Pakistani Navy vessels (a frigate and a training ship) arrived at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for five days of joint training. Pakistan and Iran have been conducting these visits to each other’s’ naval bases with increasing frequency to demonstrate peaceful intentions and willingness to cooperate between traditional enemies.
India hosted the first joint military exercises with troops from Burma. The six days of joint training will also show Burmese officers what is expected if Burma begins to supply UN peacekeepers, like the other South Asian countries (especially India and Pakistan) have done for decades.
November 19, 2017: For the first time since the 1990s the head of the Pakistani military visited Iran and tried to project willingness to be friendly and cooperative. This is a hard sell because for thousands of years the people of what is now Pakistan (mainly Punjab and Sind) have been rivals of “the Persians” (what is now Iran). A common source of friction was control of trade routes and for a long time that disputes were over who controlled what in Afghanistan. While both Pakistan and Iran supported Afghan tribes opposing the Russian occupation during the 1980s once the Russians were gone in the late 1980s and Russian support for Afghan government they left behind ended in 1991 that changed. The Afghan civil war of the early 1990s had Pakistan supporting the Pushtun tribes (40 percent of Afghans) while Iran supported the non-Pushtuns (the “Northern Alliance”) which the Taliban (another Pakistani invention) were still trying to defeat when September 11, 2001 happened. At that point the Americans entered the conflict. One reason (aside from threat of war with the U.S.) the Pakistanis cooperated with the Americans in Afghanistan was the opportunity to reduce Iranian influence. Now Pakistan is trying to avoid getting caught in the religious war between Iran and the Gulf Arabs. Despite the fact that Pakistan has long supported Saudi Arabia (and been well paid for that support) they have also tried to maintain peace on their Iranian border and not antagonize what has been an ancient foe. Although Pakistan currently has an advantage (nukes and the support of China) Iran is run by a religious dictatorship that regards largely Sunni Moslem Pakistan as due for eventual retribution (for being Sunni and for not doing enough to halt attacks on Pakistani Shia by Pakistani Sunni Islamic terrorists). At this point the Pakistan military wants Iran to know that the Pakistani military is the power to deal with in Pakistan and would prefer peace with Iran and an opportunity discuss how much that will cost both countries.
November 18, 2017: Bowing to political pressure India cancelled a half billion dollar deal worked out in 2016 for an Israel firm to set up a factory and team with an Indian firm to produce Spike ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles). The army has been warning for over a decade that without a new ATGM India would be at a serious disadvantage. But the procurement bureaucracy and DRDO (the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization) said it could develop and build a comparable ATGM in four years. That would be a miracle. No one in the military believed the DRDO but this was not about what DRDO could do but about the incompetence and corruption that has characterized DRDO for decades. DRDO may not be of much use for the military but for Indian politicians it is a vital part of getting elected and staying in power. DRDO provides jobs and cash for that. Meanwhile Israel remains a major military supplier for India. A July visit by the Indian president marked the official end of 70 years of India deferring to its Moslem population (which is larger than that of Pakistan) and decades of close ties with Moslem states at the expense of good relations with Israel. Since 2000 Israel provided India help dealing with Islamic terrorists that Pakistan began using aggressively against India in the 1990s. India noted that Israel was a major supplier of military equipment worldwide and was especially good when it came to border security and dealing with Islamic terrorism. The alliance between Israel and India has grown stronger since 2001 and now India is quite open about it. There are more and more signs of shifts in long-established alliances involving Israel.
November 17, 2017: An Indian national opinion poll showed that more Indians (now 64 percent) had a “very unfavorable” view of Pakistan. A year ago this was 55 percent. Islamic terrorism is the main cause of this. This year 76 percent of Indians consider Islamic terrorism a very big problem and 66 percent consider ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) a major threat (even though ISIL has had very little success inside India). Most of the Islamic terrorist violence in India occurs in the northwest state of Karhmir, which Pakistan has claimed since the late 1940s. That explains why this poll showed 63 percent of Indians believe India should use more military force against Pakistani aggression in Kashmir (which Pakistan blames India for starting).
November 16, 2017: The senior American military commander (the head of CENTCOM) held two days of discussions in Pakistan with local military and political leaders. The American openly repeated that the United States will no longer tolerate Pakistan supporting Islamic terrorist groups operating from Pakistan and attacking other countries, specifically Afghanistan and India. These accusations are mainly directed against the Pakistani military and its intelligence agency (ISI) which have been doing what they are accused of, and denying to outsiders, since the 1980s. Many Pakistanis agree with the accusations, although if they say that openly inside Pakistan they can be punished, often with death or “disappearance.”
November 15, 2017: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) fifteen men from Punjab province (east of Baluchistan) were killed as they sought to sneak into Iran as part of a people smuggling (to Europe) operation. The killers were local Baluchi tribal separatists who declared that the dead men were actually working on the CPEC project. This project began in 2013 when China agreed to spend $18 billion to build a road from Gwadar into northwest China. Much of the construction takes place in Baluchistan and local Baluchi separatists saw this as another effort to make Baluchistan less Baluchi. While this attack actually had nothing to do with CPEC Pakistan does have more security forces in Baluchistan to protect CPEC projects and they quickly hunted down and killed Younas Taukali a known leader in the separatist BLF (Baluchistan Liberation Front).
November 13, 2017: Afghanistan complained that Pakistani security forces have resumed firing mortar shells (at least 183 of them this time) into eastern Afghanistan (Kunar province). These rocket, mortar and artillery attacks from Pakistan have been particularly heavy since 2013 but in 2017 Pakistan has been more likely to admit that it was doing it on purpose.
November 10, 2017: In Bangladesh a rumor that someone from a rural Hindu village had posted an anti-Moslem on Facebook led to over 10,000 local Moslems attacking the Hindu village. Before police could break up the mob over 30 structures in the village had been burned down and one Hindu villager was killed and at least five seriously injured. There was also extensive looting.
November 6, 2017:
In eastern Afghanistan (Nangarhar province) ISIL gunmen shot dead an employee of the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. This city has long been the scene of this kind of violence because it is close to the Pakistan border. It is 140 kilometers east of Kabul and Islamic terrorists have long operated here because it is the first major city encountered when entering Afghanistan via one of the two major border crossing. The city of 250,000 has long been a base area for American and Afghan troops. Many of the bases are around the airport.
November 2, 2017: Pakistan stands by its decision to build a security fence along its 2,500 kilometer border with Afghanistan. In its defense Pakistan is using its construction plans so they will create the most problems for smugglers and anyone seeking to cross the border illegally. Pakistan has, with the help of Afghanistan and even American intelligence identified 235 crossing points along the border. Those that are frequently used by Islamic terrorists and drug smugglers are easy to identify as are the 18 crossing points that can be used by most vehicles. The majority of these crossing points are what they are because they enable someone on foot, or using pack animals, to get through an areas that, in the late 19th century was declared, as the “Durand Line” to be a “border” that thus more than just a safe way through very rough and often impassible (by humans) terrain. So these crossing areas are made more difficult to use by the addition of a multi-layer fence line and sensors (real or imagined.)
November 1, 2017:
The U.S. has forced Pakistan to return nine helicopters they had provided Pakistan in 2002 to patrol the Afghan border. The U.S. provided ample evidence that the helicopters were rarely used for their intended purpose and were instead used for police operations inside Pakistan, usually in the southwest (Baluchistan). This move is apparently the first of many to document Pakistani misuse of massive amounts of American aid to Pakistan for counter-terrorism operations. If this new American policy continues it could prove very costly and embarrassing for the Pakistani military and intelligence agency.
October 31, 2017: The Afghan Taliban asked the United States for some help in getting urgent medical care for one of the two university instructors (one American and one Australian) kidnapped in Kabul back in August 2016 and held captive in Afghanistan or Pakistan in an effort to gain the release of senior Taliban and Haqqani officials held in Afghanistan. The American captive, Kevin King, has a heart condition and is apparently at risk of dying. The Taliban said that if King does die it will be the fault of the United States for not doing what was needed to get him released. The two captives are believed to be held by the Haqqani Network, which is also running the Afghan Taliban these days.
October 30, 2017: In southeast Iran the first major cargo for Afghanistan arrived at the port of Chabahar. It was 130,000 tons of wheat, the first (of seven) shiploads of the 1.1 million tons of wheat India is shipping to Afghanistan. Without Chabahar there was no way India could economically ship bulk food to Afghanistan. The port is part of the Indo-Iranian project (largely financed by India) that enables cargo shipped by sea to Chabahar to complete its journey to Afghanistan by rail or road. This wheat cargo is the first major test of the Chabahar link to Afghanistan. A recent agreement between Iran and Afghanistan allows that to happen with any additional tax problems or other restrictions. Iran and India are building the 1,300 kilometer long rail line from the port to the Afghan border (near Herat) in the north. Indians are providing over two billions dollars to upgrade the port and build new roads and railroads to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
For Iran the Central Asia link is the most valuable one. But for Afghanistan having another way to move most of their imports and exports is a major achievement because Pakistan and Iran will have to complete and that will keep costs down for Afghans and reduce the use of closing the border (which Pakistan has done frequently to coerce the Afghans) because that will just drive more trade permanently to the Iran link. At the same time Iran will have as much economic leverage on Afghanistan as Pakistan has long exercised (and often abused).
India has concentrated on trade with Afghanistan and avoided security matters, except when it comes to Indians working in Afghanistan on aid projects. There are actually few Indians in Afghanistan but a lot more Indian money and trade goods. Not only is this safer for Indians but it also deprives Pakistan of another excuse for accusing India of trying to “surround Pakistan” by forging military ties with Afghanistan. Pakistan makes those accusations anyway but with little in the way of physical proof such claims are largely ignored.
October 29, 2017:
The United States and Pakistan exchanged lists of “most wanted terrorists” The American list had 75 names and many of those at the top were Haqqani Network leaders. The Pakistani list had a hundred names, many of them ardent Islamic terrorists who once worked for Pakistan but then turned on their benefactor and continue to operate, often from bases in eastern Afghanistan.
October 27, 2017: For the second time in a week Pakistan claims it has shot down an Indian quad-copter along the LOC in Kashmir. Apparently the quad-copters are commercial models anyone can buy for less than $1,000.
October 26, 2017: In Saudi Arabia Pakistani forces completed three weeks of joint training exercises with their Saudi counterparts. The events took place in Pakistan.