Although the United States is exploring the possibility of working out a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban, the major problem with that is getting Pakistan to cooperate. The Afghan Taliban cannot make any deals without Pakistan agreeing. Then there is the larger problem of such a deal turning control of Afghanistan over to drug gangs, Pakistan, Iran and Islamic conservatives (who ban education for women and generally unpopular lifestyle restrictions). Russia and Pakistan believe this would be the best possible “peace deal”. Most American and Afghans disagree. So does India and many Pakistanis unhappy with their military-dominated government.
Then there are the traditional (usual) “how to negotiate with infidels” rules used by Islamic terrorist groups and some governments dominated by Islamic conservatives. These rules stress the use of lies and deception because the Islamic scripture mentions it so it must be the only way to go. This approach has been very consistently used by Islamic terror groups and the fact that the Afghan Taliban are actually a front for Pakistan makes no difference because Pakistan is increasingly dominated by their armed forces who have been using (if not all believing in) Islamic terror groups against their real or imagined enemies since the 1980s. The drug gangs, which also depend on Pakistan to stay in business and are largely run by Pushtuns, will go along with whatever Pakistan wants.
In other words, the Afghan Taliban are actually a minor decision maker when it comes to peace in Afghanistan. That has always been the case, especially before the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan in 2001. Back then the Taliban provided sanctuary for Islamic terrorists, especially al Qaeda. This was allowed by Pakistan because that sanctuary policy was seen as a minor problem but it turned out to be a major problem. The Taliban is still on good terms with al Qaeda, although Pakistan is not. But as long as the Afghan Taliban cooperates in keeping al Qaeda out of Pakistan all is well.
The Afghan Taliban is also seen by the majority of Afghans as the creation of Pakistan and a largely Pushtun organization financed by Pakistan-supported Pushtun led drug gangs. The Pushtun are 40 percent of the Afghan population and the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. The Pushtun dominate the opium and heroin business which is also opposed by most Afghans, if only because it has created so many addicts. The Taliban are also not a unified organization. The Afghan Taliban has sanctuaries in Pakistan which keep their senior leadership safe and are also the site of border crossings where most of the chemicals for refining opium into heroin get into Afghanistan along with the fertilizer and other chemicals used to make bombs.
All this is common knowledge and the only practical reason to negotiate with the Afghan Taliban is to force more Pushtun tribes (that are still technically Taliban supporters ) to decide if they still are pro-Taliban and OK with the Taliban and Pakistan controlling the Afghan government. Another obvious negotiating problem is the Afghan government, which is elected and democracy is haram (forbidden) as far as Islamic terrorists are concerned. All this explains why the U.S. is demanding a six-month ceasefire as a precondition to negotiations. The Taliban cannot afford to allow that because most of the Taliban activity is in support of the drug gangs which the majority of Afghans are quite vocal about opposing and not willing to leave alone for six months.
In other words, the peace negotiations are not about peace but about smoking out the real intentions of Pakistan in Afghanistan. Making it even more obvious that Pakistan is a major backer of Islamic terrorism and the heroin trade makes it easier to understand that the fears of Islamic terrorists having nuclear weapons have already been realized given the direction the military-dominated Pakistan government is headed. Again this is nothing new and certainly not a secret to those who have worked with (or paid attention to) Pakistan for a while.
Competition From Iran
Since 2017 over a thousand Taliban have received training in Iran, along with weapons, in return for some cooperation. This sort of foreign meddling is unpopular in Afghanistan where such interference by neighbors, especially Pakistan and Iran, is an ancient and always unwelcome problem. But Iran and Pakistan both interfere and Iranians and Indians have done so for thousands of years and see no reason why they should not continue doing so in the 21st century. For Iran, it’s mainly about trying to protect their fellow Shia from attack. Some 15 percent of Afghans are Shia and are a particular target for Sunni Islamic terrorists like ISIL. The Taliban and al Qaeda are less likely to attack Shia because both organizations sometimes discreetly rely on Iran for sanctuary and other support. Most of the Afghan Shia are Hazara, who are ten percent of the population and the descendants of the hated Mongols who conducted several invasions of Afghanistan during the 13th and 14th centuries. These Mongol attacks destroyed more of the country and its population than any other conquerors. In addition to bad memories, the Mongols left behind Mongol warriors who settled down and marries local women. For centuries Hazara have suffered a lot of discrimination and actual violence in Afghanistan. But Iran is seen as an ally (at least against Pakistan) by most Afghans and Iran is mostly Shia and sees itself as the defender of all Shia. Opposing Pakistani meddling in Afghan affairs is a popular issue among most Afghans. One reason Western troops are tolerated in Afghanistan, which has, for thousands of years been hostile to foreigners, is because the Westerners and Afghans are both eager to shut down the drug trade and keep the Pakistanis out.
The Arabian Connection
The continued Iranian meddling in Afghanistan is one of the reasons why Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) are involved with the Taliban peace talks. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were, along with Pakistan, the only three countries that officially recognized the 1990s Taliban government of Afghanistan (that ended in late 2001). Saudi Arabia and the UAE both see Pakistani efforts to maintain control of Afghanistan via the Afghan Taliban as a good thing and all three countries believe they can control the Afghan Taliban. Inside Afghanistan, there is major opposition to Pakistani control and general contempt for Arabs in general. Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban may still get along as organizations but on a personal level Afghans see Arab Islamic terrorists as arrogant, inept, untrustworthy and second-rate warriors (Islamic or otherwise.) These attitudes developed during the late 1990s as al Qaeda was allowed to set up operations in Afghanistan and thousands of Arab Islamic terrorists (most of them trainees) arrived. Most were there for a few months of training and indoctrination. For some that was followed by a few months serving in the al Qaeda “Arab Brigade. The Arabs considered the Afghans a bunch of ignorant savages. Things did not improve when al Qaeda agreed to form a brigade of fighters composed of recent graduates from their terrorist training camps and let the Taliban use that brigade to discipline tribes that were causing problems. By using this brigade of foreign (largely Arab) Islamic terrorists to kill uncooperative tribesmen the Taliban avoided blood feuds that, in Afghanistan, tend to last for generations. That aspect of it may have worked but many Afghans learned to hate Arabs, especially those portraying themselves as Islamic terrorists.
The Pakistani military effort to create enough violence on the Indian border to justify calling India a major threat to Pakistan is having some success. India is treating the area more like a war zone. India is now ruling Kashmir directly, not via a local governor. More troops have been moved to the northwest. On the border that separates Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, cross-border attacks (mainly from Pakistan) are more frequent. Pakistan has been using snipers more often, many of them equipped with night vision sights. Pakistani attacks are up more than 63 over 2017 and 2018 isn’t over yet. From 2016 to 2017 attacks were up 96 percent so one might be able to take some solace from the fact that the rate of annual increase has diminished. Since 2016 about 120 have died on the Indian side of the border with more than five times as many wounded. Most of the casualties are civilians but the increasing use of snipers targets troops. The mortar shells often land deeper inside India and harm civilians who live and work close to the border.
Most of the Kashmir deaths are inside Kashmir where Pakistan has been sending more Islamic terrorists trained in Pakistan to organize and carry out attacks against Indian security forces, non-Moslems and any local Moslems who oppose the Pakistani program. The Pakistani military is unconcerned that most other nations consider Pakistan a sponsor of Islamic terrorism and clearly the aggressor and instigator of violence on the border and inside Kashmir. A lot of Pakistanis are opposed to this sort of thing and that is one reason why the Pakistani military has increased its use of terror and threats against Pakistani publishers who will not back the military version of events. The growing violence in northwest India over the last few years has more to do with Pakistani politics than anything inside Kashmir. Even with that, this violence is still low compared to past Pakistani efforts. The fact is that most Kashmiri Moslems are fed up with Pakistan backed violence they have lived with for decades.
Blocked In Bangladesh
In Bangladesh Pakistan military leaders and opposition BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) political leaders insist that a recently leaked recording of a phone conversation between am exiled BNP official in England and a known ISI (Pakistani intelligence) agent was a fake. Not much proof of a forgery but plenty of history when it comes to BNP working with ISI and Islamic terror groups. BNP used to be a major factor in Bangladesh politics but after the 1990s it lost a lot of its appeal, in part because was more tolerant of Islamic radicalism. In 2014 BNP boycotted the national elections. BNP encouraged its followers to apply economic pressure and BNP openly refused to halt its violence. By early 2015 Bangladesh was paralyzed by political deadlock. BNP called for violence to enforce a nationwide transportation blockade. This was officially a protest against corruption (which its leaders are also guilty of, but not as successful at) and force new elections immediately. This paralyzed the economy (costing over $10 billion) in 2015 and left over a hundred dead (mainly from BNP thugs attacking those violating the blockade). The army refused to step in and take over, as it had done twice since 1971.
The 2015 crises got started in 2009 when Bangladesh finally held its long-delayed (by corruption, violence and military rule) elections. The secularist Awami League won 230 of 300 seats in parliament and formed a government. BNP and the Islamic parties failed to attract many votes and still can’t. Nevertheless, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Islamic radicals still try to use Bangladesh as a base for terrorist operations inside India. However, the lack of local support, and energetic counter-terror operations across the border in India has led to most of these Islamic terrorists getting arrested. BNP has failed to regain the majority support it enjoyed several times in the past. Despite the reality of its much reduced popularity still had millions of supporters and a growing conviction that it was corruption not loss of popular support that kept it from power. This growing belief in conspiracies and subterfuge led BNP to become more violent and continue refusing to participate in parliamentary elections.
In Bangladesh police have the major Islamic terrorist groups on the run. There are two Islamic terror groups that account for nearly all the trouble; JMB and Ansar Al Islam (the local al Qaeda branch). JMB members often hide out across the border in India but the police there are regularly finding and arresting them. Most of the current Islamic terrorist violence in Bangladesh can be traced back to JMB, which has been around since 1998 and wants to turn Bangladesh into a religious dictatorship. To that end, JMB did establish an alliance with ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and is now considered a local ISIL affiliate. JMB has had a lot of trouble carrying out attacks in Bangladesh and has urged members to seek out opportunities in India. JMB has had some help from Pakistan, as has BNP.
December 16, 2018: In northwest Pakistan, just across the border in Afghanistan (Kunar province) there were battles between Pakistani and Afghan Taliban that lasted several days. There were apparently over 30 dead and many more wounded. These clashes are usually over who shall control which portion of the border areas. There are also similar battles between ISIL and both Taliban groups recently. Since 2015 Afghanistan (and Pakistan) have had problems with both ISIL factions and two Taliban organizations. The Pakistan Taliban continue to make attacks in Pakistan and most of these efforts can be traced back to bases in eastern Afghanistan. These attacks tend to take place in the tribal territories of the northwest and southwest but not across the border in Waziristan, where Pakistani troops are still involved in a major anti-terrorist campaign they began in mid-2014 and did not officially end until early 2017. The Pakistani Taliban are not as numerous as their Afghan counterparts and that is largely because the Pakistani Taliban do not have as much money. While Pakistani Taliban make some money from providing security for drug smuggling they have to depend on a lot of other criminal activities to maintain operations. Both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are also suffering internal problem and both have broken up into mutually hostile factions. The rise of ISIL in the region is part of this. The drug gangs (and their Pakistani partners) don’t really care as long as their hired guns protect the drug production and smuggling.
December 14, 2018: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), a roadside bomb was used against military patrol vehicle near the Iran border killing six soldiers and wounding four. In another incident closer to the border 30 gunmen attacked a frontier guard convoy, killing six and wounding 14 frontier guards before fleeing. The attackers lost at least four dead and were believed to have retreated into Iran. Pakistan demanded that Iran provide any intel on a group based in Iran that could or would make an attack of that magnitude there are several Pakistani and Iranian Islamic terror groups operating near the border as well as smuggler gangs that are often prepared to fight any security personnel they encounter while moving goods or people (illegal migrants) across the border.
December 11, 2018: India and Bangladesh agree that both have a growing problem with Burmese Rohingya Moslems driven into exile by their own government and then obtaining false documents and passing themselves off as locals. The Rohingya were quick to notice that corruption in other nations is often the only way to get out of refugee camps and resume somewhat normal lives. Such illegal documents are available in Bangladesh and India, for a price. Burmese Rohingya can make such documents work because ethnic Bengalis are the majority in Bangladesh and quite common in eastern India. That makes it possible to get away with being someone familiar and “acceptable” and not a potential expelled minority.
December 6, 2018: Pakistan has confirmed that it is expelling 18 foreign (mostly British) NGOs providing about 11 million Pakistanis with educational services (especially for girls), job training, emergency relief and medical care. This will shut down projects costing about $130 million a year and employing 1,100 Pakistanis. The military accuses foreign NGOs in general of engaging in espionage (not likely) and (more likely) revealing facts about military misbehavior that military leaders would rather be kept secret. Previous elected governments had resisted these military demands to expel NGOs but the new government is pretty much controlled by the military and does what the generals want. Pakistan points out that there are still about 80 foreign NGOs remaining. It is implied that the NGOs allowed to remain had assured the military that they would cause no problems and “cooperate” when asked to by the military. Confidentially most of the NGOs allowed to stay are not happy with this arrangement and are having a difficult time keeping their non-Pakistani staff from speaking out on the issue. The military has also ordered the blocking of more foreign news websites that are popular in Pakistan (because these websites use local languages and report on what is going on in Pakistan.) These foreign news sites often report material that the military has suppressed in Pakistan or offers interpretations of events that the military does not tolerate. Tech savvy Pakistanis can still access the banned sites but in this case, that is not much help because these sites are for Pakistanis who do not speak English and probably do not have access to local Internet experts who can show them how to get around the military censorship.
November 28, 2018: Pakistan had decided to buy another hundred Chinese made tanks. These will be the VT4, which is also known as the MBT-3000. This is an updated version of the 330 MBT-2000/Al Khalid tanks Pakistan already has. The only other modern tanks Pakistan has are 300 Ukrainian T-80UD, which are upgrades of a Russian Cold War design that Pakistan obtained in the late 1990s. The rest of Pakistans’ 2000 tanks are based on much older (1950s) Russian models, with some upgrades. Pakistan also looked at the latest Ukraine had to offer and decided to go with China, which has access to more advanced tech than Ukraine and is willing to be competitive when it comes to price. In 2012 Pakistan and China agreed to jointly market the Al Khalid tank. This vehicle is yet another variant of the Russian T-72 and is based on the Chinese T-90. Pakistan has been using it since 2001 and China has been selling it since then as the MBT-2000. Sales have not been brisk and the main selling point is that it is cheap. Pakistan has never been a major player in the arms export business and this deal with China appears more for show than anything else.
November 23, 2018: In Pakistan, Baluchi separatists attacked the heavily guarded Chinese consulate in the port city of Karachi. The three attackers used bombs and guns and were all killed. But during the attack, two policemen died along with two civilian bystanders. There were also several people wounded. Last month in southwest Pakistan Baluchi separatists killed five Chinese who were building a housing complex for more Chinese workers. A week later a local Baluchi separatist group took credit for the killing. Pakistan said it would catch the killers. Last August Pakistan also agreed to build a walled and restricted residential area near the port of Gwadar to house half a million Chinese working in Pakistan. The Chinese construction work on the new Pakistani Gwadar port facilities are visible to anyone on the ground or flying by and in 2017 it was noticed that some features of the new port and airport facilities are clearly intended for military use. India has long claimed China (despite denials) was planning to use Gwadar as a base for Chinese warships and naval aircraft. Pakistan never had a problem with Chinese military using Gwadar as it helps keep local troublemakers out. Pakistan has assured China that there would be no terrorist violence against Chinese working on upgrading the port of Gwadar and land links north to China. Pakistan is willing to pay a high price to get CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) done because it means Pakistan has an ally against Iran and even Western powers that might have some violent disagreement with Pakistan. Best of all China is picking up most of the $55 billion cost. In early 2017 China and Pakistan finally signed the agreement that granted China a 40 year lease on new facilities China is building in the southwestern port of Gwadar. The lease grants China most (over 80 percent) of the revenue brought in by port and free trade zone operations. China usually imports its own workers from China to do most of the work on projects like this. By 2022 China expects to have about half a million Chinese in Pakistan, some of them with their families. The easiest way to provide protection is to have most of them live in a heavily guarded and restricted access area. Gwadar is a key part of CPEC and it has the misfortune of being in a province (Baluchistan) that does not want to be part of Pakistan. China and the Pakistanis try to ignore this by not reporting on non-Islamic terror attacks on CPEC construction projects. The government has long been accused of suppressing news of tribal separatists in Baluchistan attacking government targets and especially those related to CPEC. The separatists claim they regularly carry out attacks on CPEC construction projects, but most of their attacks are still directed at Pakistani security forces and government facilities.
November 21, 2018: The United States has suspended its entire $1.66 billion military assistance program for Pakistan. Counter-terrorism assistance had earlier been suspended. The reason for this is the Americans concluding that Pakistan has no intention of shutting down the numerous Islamic terror organizations it hosts, and often subsidizes, in return for this Islamic terrorists attacking nations seen as hostile to Pakistan. That could now include the United States but the Americans pointed out after September 11, 2001, that Pakistan had to pick a side in the war on Islamic terrorism and the Americans are now accusing Pakistan of trying to play both sides.