India-Pakistan: Empty Victories


December 16, 2009: American and Pakistani commanders both agree that six months of fighting in the Pakistani tribal territories has seriously damaged the local Taliban, and other Islamic radical groups. Thousands of their fighters have been killed, hundreds of tons of weapons and munitions have been captured, along with much other equipment and incriminating documents. But the Pakistani Taliban has not been destroyed, because the Pakistani government still does not control the tribal territories. The autonomy that the Pushtun tribes have enjoyed for centuries, even the British respected it, is still there. There is a split in the Pakistani government, and military, on how to proceed. Many generals want to go after all the Islamic terrorists, including those that have not attacked Pakistan, especially those that concentrate on operations within India. Thus most Pakistani army generals want to leave "neutral" Islamic terror groups alone. The U.S., naturally, strongly disagrees with this position (which is not taken openly, but is very real.) Many Pakistani generals still believe having some Islamic terrorists on their side is a big advantage.

The Taliban are still able to launch terror attacks because these are organized and carried out by Taliban who are living in the urban areas, including Pakistan's major cities. Poor, or ambitious, tribesmen have been leaving the mountains, for the more prosperous lowlands, for a long time. But not all these tribesmen make it in the low country, and some turn to radical groups like the Taliban, or, more frequently, criminal gangs. While the gangs can indulge in some Robin Hood antics to maintain some protective local support, the guys who carry out the Islamic terror bombings are generally hated, and the police get lots of tips from people who suspect these killers are nearby. Even city dwellers of Pushtun ancestry will provide information, because the terror bombs kill Pushtun and non-Pushtun civilians indiscriminately.

The Taliban, unable to defeat the Pakistani army in battle, have fought back with months of terror attacks, killing over 500 people (most of them civilians). The majority of the attacks have been in the tribal territories, as it takes a lot more effort to carry out an attack in non-tribal Pakistan (where 85 percent of the population lives, and most of the police operate.)

The Pakistani Army has advanced to the Orakzai region, north of Waziristan, in search of terrorist bases known to be there. About ten percent of the half million people living in Orakzai, have fled the coming battles. Many of the Pushtun tribes have made peace with the government, and most of them mean it. But a few tribes are diligently playing both sides, hoping to increase their wealth and power along the way.

The continuing Taliban suicide bombings are, as this tactic did in Iraq, turning public opinion against the Islamic radicals. This includes more Islamic clerics publicly condemning the terror attacks. In response, the Taliban have warned the moderate clerics to re-think their positions. The threat implied is very real, as the Taliban, and al Qaeda believe that any cleric that does not agree with them, is not a true Moslem, and should be killed. Hundreds of clerics have been killed by the Islamic terrorists in the past five years, and many more have taken the hint and not criticized the Islamic terrorism.

Bangladesh, a Moslem state almost as populous as Pakistan (but with far smaller, and less violent, tribal populations), has had far fewer problems with Islamic terrorism. That's mainly because the government never officially encouraged Islamic radicalism for several decades, as the Pakistanis did starting in the late 1970s.

December 15, 2009:  The home of a minister in the government of Pakistan's most populous province, Punjab, was destroyed by a suicide car bomb. The minister was not home, but 23 died and over 60 were injured. In Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) tribal rebels blew up a section of a gas pipeline. The local Baluchi tribes want a bigger cut of the gas revenue. Elsewhere in Baluchistan, a terrorist threw a grenade at a police bus.

December 13, 2009:  The Pakistani army declared the battle for South Waziristan completed. The Taliban have fled, but will return when the army leaves. The government apparently will not anger all the other Pushtun tribes by trying to install more extensive government administration in South Waziristan, to prevent the Taliban from rebuilding. Instead, the traditional approach, of making deals with other tribes, as a counterbalance to the Taliban, will be used, or tried.

December 10, 2009: The U.S. is increasing pressure on Pakistan to shut down the Haqqani Islamic terrorist organization in North Waziristan (and adjacent areas). Haqqani has been at it for over two decades, and has long worked with Pakistani intelligence. Haqqani has been discreet, where the Taliban have not, and this has earned the group a measure of respect from Pakistani politicians and military commanders. Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan from the eastern part of the country, is now in his fifties, and runs a tight ship. He was a major warlord during the 1980s war with the Soviets, and a major player in the civil war that broke out after the Soviets left in 1989. But he quickly saw the power of the Taliban (being an Islamic conservative himself), and joined the Taliban shortly after he encountered them. But Haqqani kept his organization separate, and his head down. He carries out terror attacks, and terrorizes parts of eastern Afghanistan.

In South Waziristan, an American Hellfire missile, fired from a UAV, killed four Islamic terrorists, including the number three man in the al Qaeda hierarchy (Saleh al Somali, in charge of planning attacks outside of Pakistan). This was the 67th such attack in the last two years. Pakistan publically denounces these attacks (as violations of Pakistani sovereignty) but privately supports them (allowing the UAVs to operate from Pakistani air  bases).

In central India, police fought a ten hour battle with Maoist rebels, killing seven of them. The army and police are massing for a major offensive against the rebels, who are now trying to disrupt elections (with limited success). The big offensive began a week ago, as troops and special police units went after suspected Maoist bases.

December 9, 2009: Five American Moslem men were arrested during a police raid on an Islamic terrorist suspect's compound in eastern Pakistan. Last month, theses five college age men (three of Pakistani, one of Egyptian and one of Yemeni heritage) were reported missing by their immigrant parents. The five had traveled to Pakistan to "join the jihad", but were having a hard time getting any Islamic terror group to accept them. The terrorists do recruit in North America and Europe, but use trusted recruiters to check out prospects, and arrange for travel. These five came on their own, so some terrorists suspected an attempt by American intelligence to infiltrate the Taliban or al Qaeda. The many pro-terrorist religious schools in Pakistan serve as a magnet for those wishing to be Islamic terrorists, and a training base for turning the inexperienced, but eager, young Moslems into a more effective terrorists. Pakistan has not get shut down all these terrorist factories, only the ones that make a public nuisance of themselves. Most pro-terror religious schools remain outwardly harmless. Pakistani police know which ones are turning out terrorists, but politicians are unwilling to shut them down, for fear of other politicians accusing them of "making war on Islam." Islamic terrorism is bad, but gaining more political power by grandstanding is too hard to resist.




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