India-Pakistan: Taliban Face Another Mutiny


July 28, 2009: In Pakistan, the return of two million refugees to Swat, and adjacent areas, is still underway. The program began on the 13th and will take several more weeks to complete. The entire population did not flee, nor did all the Taliban. Police and army patrols continue to come across small bands of Taliban, who are looking for a fight, and loot. The Taliban sustains itself by confiscating money and goods from "enemies of Islam" and extorting "voluntary contributions from others. Non-Moslems are forced to pay much higher amounts, in honor of the ancient Islamic custom of taxing non-Moslems at a much higher rate. It's the extortion, as much as the imposition of lifestyle restrictions, that has caused so many tribal organizations (who are the "government" outside the towns and cities of the tribal territories) to call up their militias and go to war with the Taliban. This has led to hundreds of Taliban being killed or captured. Others have simply fled, and are still out there, looking for loot, and trouble. The Summertime raiding is an ancient Pushtun tradition, and religious zeal is the justification (there usually has to be some rationalization for the tribal mischief) for the Taliban raiders. The other tribes recognize it for what it is, and rally to defend what is theirs. The urban areas are defended by the police and army, who are less quick (and well armed) to deal with the Taliban. But now the army, and police reinforcements, have returned, and it is the Taliban that is being hunted. Since April, 1,800 Taliban and 166 soldiers and policemen have died.

The advance into Waziristan is slow because of the need to keep army casualties low. Traditionally, the Pushtun tribesmen have killed large numbers of invaders via ambushes and hit and run attacks. By advancing slowly, using aerial reconnaissance and artillery, the army kills lots of Taliban, but takes few casualties. This is good for morale, but slow going.

The Pakistani army has sent more troops to Baluchistan, to guard the roads and passes on the border with Afghanistan's Helmand province. This is to discourage Afghan Taliban from fleeing into Pakistan, because of the U.S. and NATO offensives in Helmand. Meanwhile, someone is murdering college faculty in Baluchistan, with six dead in the last few months.

India's Maoist rebel leaders held meeting last month, and issued a new doctrine (how to organize and fight) document. This was in response to increased government counter-terror activity in areas of heavy Maoist presence, and the recent defeat of the Tamil LTTE rebel movement in Sri Lanka. While not exactly allies, the LTTE and Maoists were in touch. The Maoists were not happy with the way the LTTE was crushed, and has warned its members to not be over-confident (which is seen as the main reason for the LTTE defeat.)

July 27, 2009: Three terrorists were arrested in the Pakistani capital, and bomb making materials and weapons were also seized.

July 26, 2009: India launched its first nuclear powered submarine, the 5,000 ton INS Arihant, after eleven years of planning and construction.  This new sub doesn't change the balance of naval power much for India, which is already dominant in the region.

July 23, 2009: The Abdullah Mehsud group has been formed in Waziristan, Pakistan, to oppose the self-declared leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud. The new group has established offices several parts of South Waziristan, and declared itself the legitimate head of the (now kinder and gentler) Taliban. The leader of the new group, Waziristan Baba, accuses Baitullah of ordering the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and bringing the wrath of the armed forces down on the Mehsud tribe. This is all about Mehsud tribal politics, where several pro-Taliban factions, led by Baitullah Mehsud, have taken over. Now rivals to Baitullah see an opportunity to take some power back, and limit the damage of the air force bombers, army helicopters and American UAVs. The army appears willing to use its artillery to destroy much property (mainly the fortified compounds that dot the countryside) as they go looking for Taliban leaders. But Baitullah Mehsud has already had one Taliban rival murdered, and the new rivals will be very dependent on their bodyguards for any success they might have. Baitullah Mehsud also has the cash to raise, at least for the Summer months, an army of over 5,000 tribal gunmen, plus several thousand foreign fighters. But these men are spread over a large area, and the tribal rebels can raise militias from loyal clans, and go do the traditional hit and run thing on Baitullah Mehsud's "army."




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