February 24, 2009:
Pakistan has come under a lot of criticism for its recent peace deal with Taliban terrorists in the Swat valley (an area northwest of the capital that is not in the tribal territories). Basically, the deal calls for the Taliban to stop terrorizing the population if the government allows the Taliban to enforce Sharia (Islamic law) in the region. This would allow the do whatever they wanted, because it is left to the Taliban to decide exactly what is proper Sharia. Afghanistan, India, NATO and the U.S. have all condemned this as a surrender to the Taliban and allowing terrorists a sanctuary inside Pakistan. But the Pakistani government insists that it is a proposal, not a done deal, at least not until the Taliban allow government officials to regain control of Swat. Thus it appears that all the peace talk with the Swat Taliban is just that, until the Taliban allow the refugees (over 100,000 of them) to return to Swat, along with the government officials. Few believe this "peace for Sharia" deal will work, and all are trying to figure out exactly what is going on here. None of the several previous peace deals with the Taliban have worked. The Taliban do not keep their end of the bargain, and openly call such peace deals a sign of government weakness (getting punked, to use a term even some young Taliban are familiar with.)
February 23, 2009: More Shia-Sunni violence broke out over the weekend in Karachi, Pakistan. Meanwhile, in the Swat valley, the four army brigades there halted operations. The Taliban wants the army to leave Swat, but that isn't happening, yet. At the same time, Taliban in Bajaur, a region right on the Afghan border, announced a unilateral ceasefire. The army has been hammering the Taliban in Bajaur, but the terrorists are hoping to get a deal similar to the Taliban in Swat. The Pakistani government has asked that more NATO and Afghan troops be brought to the border near Bajaur, so that Islamic terrorists cannot escape into Afghanistan. The Pakistani army has continued its search for foreign terrorists in Bajaur.
February 22, 2009: Pakistan is arming a village and neighborhood militia force in the Tribal territories, and are sending in 30,000 older rifles to equip the force. The Pakistanis also announced the formation of an elite anti-terror force in the Tribal territories. This has been going on for over a year, with the help of U.S. Special Forces trainers. The U.S. Army announced the program late last year, but no one paid much attention at the time. Now, this counter-terror force is seen as essential in halting the spread of Taliban control in the region. Most of the Pakistani armed forces remain trained, organized and motivated to fight India, not tribal rebels.
February 21, 2009: Russia has again raised the price of rebuilding its aircraft carrier (the Gorshkov) for India. Russia now wants about $3 billion, which is twice the price that was agreed on when the original deal was made five years ago. India has begin construction of its own aircraft carriers, but many doubt India's ability to successfully build three new carriers operational by 2015. Domestic defense projects tend to go on for decades (beyond their planned completion dates) in India.
February 20, 2009: In Peshawar, the largest city in the Pakistani Tribal Territories, a Shia religious leader was murdered. The next day, a suicide bomber killed 30 people attending the funeral, and wounding over 150. This led to more violence between Shia and Sunni.
February 19, 2009: The U.S. admitted that it had an informal arrangement with Pakistan, for the last five years, to operate Predator UAVs out of Pakistani Air Force bases in or near the tribal territories. The UAV operators are actually back in the United States, as they control the aircraft via a satellite link. So the only U.S. Air Force personnel in the Pakistani bases are a few maintainers for each Predator, and a some maintenance equipment. Both can be moved to another airbase quickly via a C-130, and apparently are on a regular basis. Until recently, the Pakistanis complained that the Predators only attacked al Qaeda, and not Taliban, leaders. That was because the United States believed it would cause too much domestic unrest in Pakistan if the UAVs started killing Pakistani Taliban, rather than foreign terrorists. The U.S. has finally come around to the Pakistani view that most Pakistanis fear the Taliban more than the foreign terrorists. Thus in the last few weeks, there have been several UAV attacks on Taliban leaders.
February 18, 2009: Outside Peshawar, the largest city in the Tribal Territories, Pakistani police seized a truck bomb, after the driver fled. The truck had been chasing a senior government official, apparently to blow him up. Meanwhile, in southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), tribal rebels blew up one of the natural gas pipelines. The Baluchi tribes want more autonomy and a larger cut of the gas revenue. In India's Chhattisgarh state, Maoist rebels killed three policemen. In the last two years, nearly 500 people have died because of some 1,200 incidents of Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh. To cope with this, India is organizing a special COBRA (Combat Battalion for Resolute Action) police unit with about 10,000 personnel.
February 17, 2009: Police in Lahore, Pakistan arrested three men from the tribal areas, who were carrying hand grenades and bomb making material. The men were caught because of information from the interrogation of other terrorists captured earlier.