In northwest India (Kashmir) rival Islamic terror groups are again feuding and one of the Pakistan backed Islamic terrorists was recently killed by a rival Islamic terrorist. This sort of violence caused the collapse of Islamic terrorist activity in Kashmir back in the 1990s. It has taken Pakistan over a decade to get the terrorism going again in Kashmir and now the self-destructive aspect of Islamic terrorism has returned, as it nearly always does. The disagreements can be for many reasons but the most common ones are disputes over which Islamic terror group is the most righteous and faithful in adhering to God’s Plan. Islamic scripture provides no accepted way to settle these disputes and there is no central religious authority to make a ruling. So the cycle of factionalism followed by self-destructive feuds continues. Meanwhile, Islamic terrorism in the first six months of 2019 has caused the most terrorism related deaths seen in Kashmir since 2005.
Despite recent Pakistani pledges to cease further involvement with Afghan “internal conflicts,” Iranians, Indians and Afghans generally agree that Pakistan has no interest in abandoning its use of certain Islamic terror groups (like the Taliban) to put pressure on neighbors. This is considered a problem for everyone, especially the Afghans. Worse, few people in the region (especially Afghans and Iranians) expect the Taliban to agree to a ban on Taliban controlled Afghanistan again becoming a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists. Many Afghans are wondering why the Americans are even negotiating with the Taliban, who have long demonstrated that they cannot be trusted. Iranians are particularly wary of this as they see the Taliban as inherently anti-Iranian. Iran also has issues with the Afghan drug gangs, who continue to produce, with Pakistani cooperation, all that heroin, opium and hashish. Much of it gets out of Afghanistan via Iran and that has turned the Iran/Afghan border into an increasingly bloody battle zone.
After the recent (2018) election of Imran Khan as
the prime minister of Pakistan, he proved himself very much a tool of the Pakistani military. Khan openly and enthusiastically supported the Islamic terrorist violence in Indian Kashmir and denies any Pakistani responsibility for it. The Pakistani military can now do whatever they like without any risk of criticism from Pakistani politicians. The new head of the ISI is noted for his enthusiastic support for Islamic radicalism and the use of Islamic terrorism against India. There is a dark side to all of this, even for the Pakistanis. Indian leaders are running out of options and are seriously talking of more raids and airstrikes against Islamic terrorist facilities just across the border in Pakistani Kashmir. If that happens Pakistan says it will also escalate and that is the direction this is headed.
Soon after Imran Khan took power, the Pakistani military got a 20 percent increase in defense spending, which was surprising given the severe budget problems the government was having.
India spends nearly $60 billion a year 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 $11.4 billion. Indian spending is 3.1 percent of GDP while Pakistan is now at four percent. The largesse did not survive the Pakistani debt crises of 2019 and now the Pakistani military has lost most of their recent budget gains and a likely to lose even more. The generals can, literally, blame it all on “foreign bankers” and largely infidel (non-Moslem) ones at that.
While the IMF (International Monetary Fund) is reluctant to loan Pakistan any more money because of the excessive defense spending and lack of progress in getting wealthy Pakistanis to pay taxes, there is also the accusations of financing Islamic terrorism. IMF also warns that if charges that Pakistani is allowing Islamic terrorists to raise and move cash out of the country are verified, Pakistan would have more problems obtaining foreign loans. The terrorism funding charges are evaluated by the
FATF (Financial Action Task Force) which has put Pakistani on the gray list and will escalate to the blacklist if Pakistan does not make effective efforts to block Pakistan based terrorist groups from using the international banking system to finance their violence. Pakistan was warned in early 2018 that unless they reduced the illegal financing activity coming out of Pakistan the FATF would put Pakistan back on the “gray list” and this time it would be more likely to make it to the blacklist and that would mean Pakistan would have some financial problems because of the resulting international banking restriction. Pakistan said it would comply by the end of 2018, but failed to meet that goal. FATF gave them until May to comply, but Pakistan missed that deadline as well. The last chance deadline is October.
Initially, FATF pointed out that in 2018 there were 8,707 STRs (Suspicious Transaction Reports) generated by Pakistan versus 5,548 in 2017. In the first two months of 2019, Pakistan generated 1,136 STRs. The FATF will decide by the end of June if there has been any Pakistani progress and so far there does not appear to be any. Pakistan had been on the gray list from 2012 to 2015 and that was bad for businesses that import or export or need to get loans or sell bonds. After 2015 Pakistan was still on the FATF list but not designated as dangerous. Being on the gray portion of the list makes it more expensive to do business and is very bad for the reputation of Pakistan and Pakistanis. China played a major role in keeping Pakistan off the gray list in early 2018 but the odds were against Pakistan staying off the list because it has long been an open secret that Pakistani support for its own pet Islamic terrorists included making it easier for Islamic terrorists, in general, to do business in Pakistan. The United States has been gathering evidence to justify the FATF putting Pakistan back on the gray list (alongside Ethiopia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu and Tunisia). FATF meets every three months to consider new evidence to get nations on, or off, the list. Next review has arrived and the Americans continued gathering more evidence. The U.S. now considers Pakistan a problem in the war against terrorism rather than a reliable partner. India and Afghanistan share that view as do a growing number of UN members. India wants Pakistan to be put on the blacklist and continues to compile and submit evidence to support blacklisting.
June 26, 2019: In northern Pakistan (Rawalpindi a military town next to the national capital), there was a bombing at the hospital inside the army headquarters compound. This hospital is one of the most heavily guarded facilities in Pakistan. The military tried to keep news of the attack away from local and international media. Ten people were wounded and the target of the attack was believed to be Masood Azhar, an international terrorist long sought (dead or alive) by India. Azar was responsible for the 2011 Mumbai (India) terrorist attack and a more recent February suicide bombing in Kashmir that left 40 Indian police dead. India has plenty of evidence that Pakistan continues to protect Islamic terror groups that only attack other nations (mainly India and Afghanistan). While Pakistan was grateful that China used their UN veto to block justified counter-terrorism measures for so long eventually China got tired of it and recently agreed that Azhar was indeed a notorious terrorist. China was also trying to persuade Pakistan to back off on sponsoring Islamic terrorist groups that were willing to attack Pakistani enemies. Pakistan refused to go along with the Chinese requests so China sent the message in stronger terms by no longer blocking UN efforts to designate Azhar an international terrorist. This move won China some goodwill from Afghanistan, India and many other nations who have suffered from this Pakistani use of Islamic terrorists. Within days of the UN declaring Azhar a terrorist, Pakistan froze his bank accounts and banned him from leaving the country. Azhar was not arrested nor were any moves made against JeM (Jaish e Mohammad), the terror groups Azhar leads. Azhar suffers from kidney failure and needs regular dialysis to stay alive. He was apparently at the military hospital for his medical treatment. JeM has become the primary target of counter-terror operations in Indian Kashmir. About a third of Islamic terrorists killed in Kashmir in the last year have belonged to JeM. Although JeM has been around since 2000 it only became a major Islamic terrorist threat in the last few years.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan province), three Pakistan Taliban suicide bombers attacked a police headquarters compound, did some damage and were killed. One policeman died as well.
June 20, 2019: In eastern Pakistan (Punjab province), police, for the second time this year raided an Islamic terrorist hideout and killed two ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) members. The nighttime operation actually caught five ISIL men in the house they were using as a base. Two of the ISIL men basically sacrificed themselves so the other three could escape. In the house, police found a large arsenal of weapons and ammo plus equipment to support operations, like kidnapping foreigners or prominent Pakistani officials. The official Pakistani assessment of local ISIL activity is that it is largely restricted to Afghanistan. While that has been true, ISIL is also obviously inside Pakistan and has been since at least 2018. The ISIL cells in Pakistan have attracted the more radical and daring men from existing Islamic terror groups. A similar January raid killed two ISIL men who were known to have participated in the 2011 kidnapping of an American in Lahore (the capital of Punjab). The American hostage was killed in 2015 when a hideout he was being held in along the Afghan border was hit by an American UAV missile strike. The ISIL men killed in the January and June raids were responsible for other high profile kidnappings as well and more were being planned. The three men who escaped the most recent raid are being sought and Pakistan admits that there are probably other ISIL members active inside Pakistan.
June 8, 2019: In northeast India (Nagaland), Indian and Burmese troops completed another round of joint operations to eliminate various (mainly Naga) rebel bases in the Sagaing Region on the Burmese side of the border. The Sagaing region has long been used as a refuge for Indian rebels but this year Indian and Burmese forces have been coordinating efforts to shut down the border camps for good, or at least for a long time. Since March these operations have discovered more than fifty rebel camps on both sides of the border. Most were used by Naga rebels but there several other rebel groups present as well. The current phase of these operations might be the last for the year, depending on how much long-term damage was done to the rebel groups involved.
In March Indian and Burmese carried out the first sweep on both sides of the border. This went on for weeks. While this hurt the Naga rebels it did not destroy the rebel groups, who returned to the border area once the troops had ceased their activity. Two more major operations have been launched since then with Burmese troops patrolling specific areas for as long as it takes India to certify that the Naga rebels have suffered serious and long-term damage. Indian troops were also active on their side of the border to ensure that the Naga rebels, both the Indian and Burmese ones, have nowhere to go and that situation will last so long (at least several months) that many of rebels will desert and return to their villages. Other rebel groups will be cornered by Indian or Burmese troops and destroyed.
Most of the Naga people are Indian but some live in the Burmese far north Sagaing Region and belong to the NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) which wants to form an independent Nagaland including Indian and Burmese territory and Naga people from both countries. Many of the camps being sought in Sagaing belong to the NSCN-K faction of the NSCN. At the start of 2019, there were believed to be about 5,000 active rebels in NSCN with about ten percent of them Burmese Naga. This new operation seeks to reduce the size of NSCN by a significant amount. How much damage will be done won’t be known until the end of 2019? These operations are not just going after the NSCN but also smaller groups like the Ulfa-I, NDFB and Manipur rebels.
The Naga are actually about two million people from a collection of tribes that share many ethnic (Burma-Tibetan) characteristics and traditions. About ten percent of the Naga live in Burma but most of the rebel violence occurs in Indian Nagaland where most Nagas reside. For years the Naga rebels have used bases in Burma to train and rest before returning to fight in India. After much diplomatic pressure, the Burmese army finally went after the Naga rebel camps and expect to shut most of them down by late 2019. The Naga rebels do not fight the Burmese soldiers but always retreat. For this new operation, Burmese soldiers have orders to pursue and capture or kill any rebels they encounter. If the rebels head for India the Indian Army is alerted and moves troops into position to confront any rebels crossing the border to escape Burmese troops.
June 7, 2019: I
n northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan), Islamic terrorists attacked an army patrol near the Afghan border, using a roadside bomb. Four soldiers were killed and four wounded.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan province), there were two more attacks (both using bombs) on Shia Pakistanis by Sunni Islamic terrorists. Five people died and over a dozen were wounded. No specific group took credit for either attack.
June 6, 2019: India has ordered another hundred Israeli SPICE 2000 smart bombs, for about $420,000 each. This follows a recent order for 5,000 tactical combat network radios for the army. These cost about $24,000 each because they are resistant to electronic jamming and built to withstand rough treatment in a combat zone. These radios can also handle data as well as voice and can establish wireless battlefield networks. These radios are mounted in combat vehicles as well as at stationary headquarters.
June 5, 2019: In Pakistan, the military leadership says they have voluntarily reduced the military budget for the next year in order to get the IMF to agree to another round of “emergency loans” to deal with the lack of foreign exchange to pay for imports. The defense cuts, which amount to about ten percent of defense spending for the next year, were not voluntary but forced on Pakistan and the Pakistani military by the IMF. Excessive military spending has long been recognized as a major reason for Pakistan’s persistent and worsening economic troubles. Foreign lenders want more cuts in defense spending but that would make it obvious that the cuts were being forced on the military.
June 4, 2019: The Americans have given Pakistan a chance to restore some of the military and economic aid that has been lost because of Pakistan support for Islamic terrorism. The U.S. wants Pakistan to persuade (coerce) the Afghan Taliban to be more reasonable in the peace talk demands. This ask is a long shot and will probably fail. Afghanistan becoming more chaotic and dependent on Pakistan has long been a pillar of Pakistani foreign policy towards Afghanistan. The peace talks in Qatar are going nowhere and that suits Pakistan although the best outcome would be the Americans agreeing to leave and accepting Taliban assurances that Afghanistan would not become a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists.