India-Pakistan: Where Have All The Big Bads Gone?


June 10, 2010:  In Pakistan's tribal territories, the army's biggest day-to-day problem is operating some kind of government. Since before Pakistan was founded in 1948, the tribal territories were run by tribal authorities. Over the last sixty years, the government police and bureaucrats have taken control of urban areas in the tribal territories (cities and large towns), but that still leaves over ten million people out in the countryside, ruled by centuries old tribal custom and whim. This is where the Taliban emerged, and where over three million people still live under the control of pro-Taliban tribal leaders. As the army drives Taliban gunmen out of an area, it is faced with the problem of finding pro-government tribesmen willing to work with army or civilian bureaucrats to run the area. Since the Taliban like to stick around, passing as regular folks, and terrorize their tribal opponents, this is asking a lot.

The Pakistani Army is preparing to move into North Waziristan, the last area where a large concentration of Taliban can be found. North Waziristan is small (only 4,700 square kilometers, and 365,000 people). But most of the adult men have guns, and using them is considered both an obligation and something of an outdoor sport. Despite its smaller population, North Waziristan is considered a tougher objective than South Waziristan,  Orakzai, Bajaur and Swat. The North Waziristan tribes can put over 30,000 armed (if not very well trained or equipped) men into action. Like Bajaur, a river runs through it (the Tochi, and into Afghanistan via the Tochi pass.) Most tribal leaders in North Waziristan can see where this is going, and are trying to work out deals that will spare them attacks by the army or the Taliban (who like to murder disloyal tribal leaders). The army wants to keep down the civilian casualties, as the families of such victims have long memories. Blood feuds are a major obsession up in those hills. Thus the effort to get the North Waziristan tribes to drive out the Taliban gunmen in their territory, or at least identify them and where they are. The pro-government tribes are willing to do this, and apparently are already providing information.

The army wants to go in quick, and round up the remaining Taliban before too many others get hurt. During this planning process, it's become apparent that many of the al Qaeda and Taliban (and other terror group) leaders that have long hid out in places like North Waziristan, are no longer there. Where have these guys gone? Some believe they have gone to Afghanistan. But that is not a safe place for terrorist big shots, and there's little evidence that new ones are coming in (many already there are known to be recently dead, or fled.) Fleeing to Yemen or Somalia is not much of an option, as both places are now hard to get into, and stay hidden. Both those areas are under intense scrutiny by Western counter-terrorism forces. Iran is not hospitable to Sunni Islamic radicals (who are big fans of killing Shia Moslems, which is what Iranians are). It seems more likely that these terrorist leaders have fled to the more populous parts of Pakistan (Punjab, Sind and major cities like Karachi). Pakistani officials do not like this outcome, but it appears to be what is happening. Local police in Punjab and Sind are dealing with it, after years of blaming terrorist violence on outsiders. It's now obvious to all that Islamic groups have been operating in Punjab and Sind for quite some time, with little assistance from outsiders.

India and the United States are pressuring Pakistan to stop protecting some Islamic terror groups. This selective counter-terror campaign simply provides a place for terrorists to hide out. Islamic terrorists simply declare they belong to one of the "protected groups" and carry on as always.

The Pakistani government revealed that a computer contractor, working on updating the data systems used by senior government officials, had stolen classified documents and fled. These contractors are vetted before getting access to secret data, and it is not known why this fellow turned rogue.

June 9, 2010: At a truck depot outside the Pakistani capital, some fifteen Taliban attacked trucks carrying supplies to NATO forces. Some sixty shipping containers were damaged by bullets or fire. This sort of thing is rare, as the trucking companies have security arrangements with major gangsters and tribal leaders, to ensure that the cargos get to where they are headed in Afghanistan. If the cargo does not arrive, or is damaged, the trucking companies lose business. They have already lost a lot of business, as more and more cargo arrives via Russia and several Central Asian neighbors of Afghanistan. These attacks are either the work of someone who wants more money, or wants to be dead.

In the United States, Pakistani-American Syed Fahad Hashmi was sentenced to fifteen years in jail for providing al Quaed with material support. He has already served three years, as the case dragged on. Hashmi showed tearful remorse at his sentencing, brought about, in part, by the Spartan conditions in the super-max prison he spent most of the last three years in. A growing number of educated Pakistani men are ending up like Hashmi, and the chatter on the pro-Islamic terrorist Internet sites is changing as a result. Dying is one thing, spending a decade or more, or the rest of your life, in super-max, has become a major deterrent and attitude changer. The failure of Islamic radicals to achieve any of their goals in the last decade, other than killing a lot of Moslems, has become more difficult to dismiss. But terrorist recruiters are having some success with young, educated, Pakistani men, who are dismayed with their corrupt and stagnant government and economy. Despite their education, these guys are naive, desperate, and often not as clever as they think they are. More and more of these guys are ending up dead or imprisoned, which recruiters dismiss as "martyrdom." This is not a sustainable recruiting model.

June 8, 2010: In Pakistan's Orakzai district (near Waziristan and the Afghan border) a group of Taliban attacked an army convoy. Six soldiers and at least 40 attackers were killed. The army had recently declared Orakzai clear of the Taliban, but apparently not everyone got the memo.

June 5, 2010:  Near Pakistan's Khyber Pass, Taliban and Islamic terrorists (from Lashkar-e-Islam) continued their feud, leaving at least 25 dead. This battle arose when Taliban fighters tried to kidnap the leaders of Lashkar-e-Islam . That did not work out too well. The two groups are fighting over who would control terrorist, and criminal, operations in the area. The two groups have been feuding for some time, when they are not running from, or battling, security forces.

Pakistan will increase its defense budget 17 percent in the next year, to some $5.2 billion. U.S. military aid will pay for most the increase. Pakistan has received about $10 billion in American military aid since September 11, 2001.

June 4, 2010: Indian Army units in Kashmir have been alerted for movement to eastern India, to areas where 48 special police battalions are seeking to root our thousands of armed Maoist rebels. But these police battalions are spread thin, over rural areas in nine states. National leaders are under pressure to show more progress against the Maoists, who have been striking back by attacking police installations and train traffic. But the state governments don't want the army coming in, feeling that the troops would be more trouble than help in what is considered mainly a police matter.






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