India is refusing to talk with Pakistan until the Pakistani military at least reduces its Islamic terror activity in Kashmir. Pakistan denies there is any such thing, despite a growing body of evidence from captured Islamic terrorists, documents and electronic intercepts. Pakistan has found that their best tactic in the face of all this evidence is to just continue denying while putting all the blame on India. Even veteran diplomats find this approach tiresome and repugnant. Pakistani elected officials (and many more retired civil and military personnel) have admitted this but often quietly because the Pakistani military does not respond well to public criticism from anyone inside Pakistan.
In the last month, Pakistan has ordered its Islamic terrorists operating in Kashmir to terrorize the locally recruited police as well as their families. There are about 26,000 of these SPOs (Special Police Officers) in Kashmir and the threats caused about fifty resignations. India responded by increasing the pay of SPOs, especially those with years of experience. The intent of the terrorist threat is to destroy the local police and force India to bring in outsiders to provide local policing. This would make it easier for the Pakistani terrorists to carry out another mission; make it more difficult to hold elections, especially those that elect local officials. Most Kashmiris are hostile to both of these Pakistani efforts but there is not much they can do about it. As long as there are a few hundred Islamic terrorists out in the hills, and those Islamic terrorists are willing to take a lot of casualties (which they are as a result of engaging in a high-risk activity like kidnapping locals and killing those who are police) Pakistan can keep Indian Kashmir in disarray.
While more young men from Kashmir are joining the Pakistani Islamic terror groups police point out that these recruits are not trained (often for a year or more), like the ones from Pakistan are and rarely last more than a year before getting killed or dying from disease or accidents or getting captured and jailed. Pakistan can bring over more of their trained Islamic terrorists but the losses getting across the border are high and despite their training, the imported Islamic terrorists don’t last long either. Pakistani planners believe if they can amp up the violence in Kashmir the Indian forces will react and that will mean more pain and loss for civilians because the paramilitary police prefer to avoid casualties at all costs and thus deal harshly with any civilians suspected of harboring Islamic terrorists. The civilians usually have no choice and that’s why it’s so important to have local police, who can determine who is a victim and who is supporting the Islamic terrorists. Pakistan is willing to impose more and more pain on the Kashmiri population because after more than 20 years of this nothing has worked. Most Moslem Kashmiris are not interested in becoming part of Pakistan (they know how it is over there) but there are a minority of Kashmiris who do support Pakistan and that’s enough for Pakistan to keep the violence going but not enough to win. Apparently, Pakistan believes they have nothing to lose with their “burn the place” down approach.
The Afghan Taliban is divided over the issue of being controlled by Pakistan and being held responsible for the growing number of Afghan drug addicts. Then there is the role of Pakistan in sustaining the chaos Afghanistan has suffered since the late 1970s (when Russian backed Afghan communists tried to start a revolution). The communists were followed by a Russian invasion, drug gangs, an Islamic revolution, civil war and Pakistan seeking to take control in the 1990s with their Taliban movement. Pakistan did serve as a base for millions of Afghan refugees and thousands of Afghan rebels during the 1980s but that led to Pakistan believing it could continue to support violence in Afghanistan if it was deemed to be serving Pakistani interests. The Pakistani created and supported Taliban had control of Afghanistan (or at least most of it) from the late 1990s until 2001. That led to the American invasion and Pakistan continuing to support the drug gangs and Taliban while assisting the U.S. in its “war on terror.” Many Americans want to just leave. The problem is just getting out leaves Afghanistan at the mercy of Pakistan, Iran and Russia, as well as all the drug gangs, Islamic terror groups and numerous Afghans who oppose the drugs and all the outside interference. The drugs and Islamic terrorism will still be major exports. The West can leave Afghanistan but the ills of Afghanistan won’t leave the West and that is just fine with Pakistan.
A growing number of Afghan Taliban leaders want peace and an end to being manipulated by the Pakistanis. Despite that, the senior Afghan Taliban leader and the Pakistani generals are not inclined to consider peace talks because of all that money from the drug gangs as well as the ability to “control” (or at least disrupt) Afghanistan. The U.S. recently repeated its accusation that Pakistan had done nothing about the Pakistan sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network and several other Islamic terror groups that do the bidding of the Pakistani military.
Direct peace talks between Afghan Taliban leaders and the United States, which is now a possibility, are very risky for the Taliban and their Pakistani patrons because the existence of their sanctuaries in Pakistan, while denied by the Pakistani military, are an open secret in Pakistan where it is also obvious that the Pakistan military and its intelligence agency (the ISI) handles these sanctuaries. Those sanctuaries make it possible for the Afghan Taliban to plan and organize attacks on internal enemies (factions that oppose Pakistani control). Peace talks between the Americans and factions of the Afghan Taliban are just one of the problems the Afghan Taliban face. There has been growing internal unrest, mainly between factions that believe they are serving Pakistan at the expense of Afghans. On an individual basis, more Afghan Taliban veterans are quitting to join ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) because they see the Afghan Taliban becoming more of a drug gang security force than anything else. Other Taliban veterans just quit. The Afghan Taliban is gradually losing its true believers (in the original goal of establishing a religious dictatorship in Afghanistan) and turning into mercenaries.
Whatever the Afghan Taliban evolves into the Pakistani military will have a major role to play. The Pakistani military does what it wants in Afghanistan, just like it does in Pakistan, where the military is very much above the law and can usually act like it. That is not a secret because about half the time since Pakistan was created in 1947 the military has openly run the government (after a coup) until popular opposition (and frustration at the task of governing) forced the generals to allow elections again. The Afghan Taliban insist their main goal is to get foreign troops out of Afghanistan but say nothing about suppressing the widely unpopular drug trade. Moreover terrorism related deaths are overwhelmingly caused by the Islamic terrorists, mainly Taliban and Haqqani Network attacks. These men die protecting the drug production that has turned millions of Afghans into addicts and crippled efforts to build the economy and educate the children. Few Taliban really believe they are doing anything good for Afghanistan or the average Afghan.
To maintain control of the Afghan Taliban the ISI calls on another of their “protected” Islamic terror groups; the Haqqani Network. This group was once a faction in the 1990s Afghan civil war but always had a good relationship with the ISI. Over the last two decades Haqqani have turned into a criminal gang that also manages terror operations in Afghanistan for ISI. Because of that Haqqani, at the behest of ISI, also became part of the current Afghan Taliban senior leadership. Most Afghans know all about this and are not happy with how the Pakistani military gets away with it. This has caused a split in the Afghan Taliban with several factions still working for drug gangs but refusing to take orders from the ISI controlled Afghan Taliban leadership.
Since 2015 there has been a lot more violence in Afghanistan and most of it has involved fighting between Islamic terror groups as well as with local tribal militias and Afghan security forces. What drives this extraordinary degree of violence is the drug trade, which is seen as a quick path to wealth by many uneducated and unemployed Afghans. While Taliban attacks on urban areas are always big news outside of Afghanistan what is important to the Taliban is control of key rural areas where opium and heroin are produced as well as the routes to external markets (usually via Pakistan, as well as Iran and Central Asia). The routes to Pakistan are also important for importing chemicals (to turn opium into heroin), weapons and other illegal suppliers.
The Americans have revised their strategy in Afghanistan to recognize the key importance of Pakistan. This is where most of the heroin moves from Afghanistan to world markets (via the Port of Karachi) and where the Pakistan military makes sure whatever the Taliban in Afghanistan needs gets safely to the Afghan border. Since 2oo2 the U.S. has respected Pakistani demands that the Taliban leadership sanctuary in Quetta (the capital of Baluchistan Province and near the Afghan border and Kandahar province, where most of the worlds heroin comes from) not be attacked by American UAVs. Apparently those conventions are being reviewed while all military aid to Pakistan has been halted. Pakistan received over $33 billion in aid since 2001.
Halting all military aid to Pakistan has caused the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistan military to reconsider their strategy towards the drug trade and efforts to maintain influence over Afghanistan by sponsoring lots of violence inside Afghanistan. By continuing to refrain from hitting Afghan Taliban sanctuaries Pakistan has an incentive to continue allowing NATO to move supplies from the port of Karachi, by road, into Afghanistan.
Meanwhile the remnants of the Pakistani Taliban hide out in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. A favorite hideout for all sorts of Islamic terrorists, smugglers and outlaws is Nangarhar province where the Afghan military and American forces are constantly seeking out all manner of Islamic terrorists (Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, ISIL and both flavors of Taliban). For example on August 25th an American air strike killed the head of the Afghan branch of ISIL. This sort of thing slows down but does not stop ISIL efforts to expand its operations in into Pakistan. This is something the Pakistani military would rather not dwell on because Pakistan prefers to insist that Afghanistan and the Americans are not doing enough to suppress Islamic terrorists who are hostile to Pakistan (especially the Pakistani Taliban).
The Afghan-Pakistan branch of ISIL (Wilayat e Khurasan or just “Khurasan”) has found it is possible to operate in Pakistan. First ISIL had to find existing groups that were at war with the Pakistani government and done so by successfully adapting to the military counter-terrorism efforts. The two most hospitable groups were the rebellions Baluchi tribesmen in Southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan). The second haven was urban areas in Sind and Punjab provinces. These two provinces contain most of Pakistan’s population and economic activity. This is also where most of the better educated (and often unemployed) ISIL recruits can be found. There were already some ISIL support networks in these urban areas and ISIL has learned how to use them for organizing attacks. While ISIL attacks in Baluchistan can be attributed (by the military) to Baluchi separatists or other Islamic terror groups that survive there , the attacks in Sind and Punjab are generally accepted as ISIL efforts and that embarrasses the military.
All Quiet On The Pakistani Media
The Pakistani military won a major victory in 2018 that they prefer not to publicize. The loser here has been Pakistani press freedom and all that goes with it. The key to calling this a victory is the military gaining control over the courts, especially the highest tribunals beyond which there is no appeal. The military can now act freely to intimidate and silence any media critics. The intimidation comes in many forms. One is to have ISI (military intelligence) agents break into the homes of uncooperative journalists and steal items related to investigations of military misconduct. The victims usually suspect the ISI because if you have been active online or in print or electronic media criticizing the military the ISI will send you a message. Burglary is one of the milder forms of ISI media intimidation. If a Pakistani online critic lives outside the country the ISI will threaten parents or other kin who still live in Pakistan. The threats often include kidnapping and torture if their overseas critic does not shut up. If the victims in Pakistan seek out the police and courts for protection they receive no help. Few of these offshore online critics and family in Pakistan continue to defy the ISI. This sort of thing explains why a mid-2018 survey found that 88 percent of Pakistani journalists admitted that they “self-censor” to avoid problems with the military (which now prefers to be referred to as “the Institution”.)
Kidnapping and injuring kin of foreign critics is often risky for the ISI because the UN and many foreign nations are already pressuring the Pakistani military to halt its support for Islamic terrorism against neighbors and police terrorism against critics inside Pakistan. That is less of a problem as the military escalated its use of coercion against “uncooperative” Pakistani mass media. Recent examples of this can be seen in the blocking of the distribution of the Dawn newspaper in early May because Dawn printed an interview with a former prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) who admitted that the 2008 Islamic terror attacks on India in Mumbai were the work of a Pakistan based Islamic terrorist group that has long, and still does, receive support and sanctuary by the Pakistani military. The military also sought to suppress news of a recent book by Asad Durrani, a former (1990-92) head of ISI (military intelligence) that was written with a former head of RAW, the Indian equivalent of ISI. These two intel experts compare perspectives and it does not look good for the Pakistani military. As a result Durrani was barred from leaving the country for any reason. Durrani and Sharif are but the latest (and among the most senior) Pakistani insiders to go public with details of how the Pakistani military operates. The military wants to minimize the damage these “traitors” inflict on the reputation and credibility of the military. A growing number of Pakistanis believe it is too late for that.
While the Pakistani military is gradually losing its popular support due to relentless and growing opposition inside Pakistan, the military still controls nuclear weapons. Worse there are a growing number of generals who are true believers in Islamic radicalism (some have even joined Islamic terror groups after retiring). These true believers are a minority in the military leadership but that fact that they exist and the fact that Pakistan was able to build nuclear weapons via corrupt practices (and then secretly offer some of the tech for sale) makes a lot of people inside and outside Pakistan nervous.
Dawn continued to report on that Sharif interview, the book and the reaction of readers inside Pakistan and worldwide. Details of the 2008 Mumbai attack are well documented and widely accepted worldwide and were included book Dawn gave a lot of attention to. But to discuss this in inside Pakistan can get you into trouble. Sometimes fatal trouble. Dawn is the oldest and most read English language newspaper in Pakistan. The military had suspended distribution of Dawn in areas that the military controls (because of military bases, military operations or because the military controls much of the local economy.) This sort of thing backfires because the military cannot control the Internet and as the news gets through anyway people are eagerly seek it out and embrace it. Among those embracing this news are many Pushtuns in the northwest who are openly blaming the military for all the Islamic terrorism and chaos in the Afghan border areas where most Pushtun live.
China Tries Harder
As India achieves a higher GDP growth rate than China and will soon have more people than China it has become popular for Indians to seek other comparisons. That does not work out well. India is playing catchup with China when it comes to explosive economic growth and India has several serious shortcomings compared to China. For one thing the Indian workforce is less educated than the Chinese. This is due to the rampant corruption throughout Indian public education. China, in comparison, has far higher standards in public education. While China has problems with corruption the problem is much more severe for India, especially in the government. This means key decisions (like military procurement and educational or other reforms) are delayed for years, or decades, because of the corruption and political deal making. It’s a cultural thing and India will have to work hard to become competitive with China. On a practical level Indian military capabilities are inferior to the Chinese because of the corruption and government sloth. For example the Indian military cannot get needed new weapons or essential support to keep existing one operational. Efforts to improve roads and other infrastructure in border areas claimed by China are way behind schedule because the government delays and procrastination. These are not new problems but have been around for centuries. China overcame them and if India does not China will always have the upper hand in tech, economy and military power.
September 25, 2018: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) the government has ordered customs officials to strictly enforce import-export rules and block any Afghan imports that do not have the proper paperwork. That means an Electronic Import Form, which is available, for a fee. Many Afghans refuse to get the forms because they see it as a ploy by Pakistan to impose fees to get goods into Pakistan, particularly perishables (like fruit and vegetables). Pakistan didn’t demand the paperwork when they reopened the border to trade in May.
September 24, 2018: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) a policeman guarding polio vaccination workers was shot dead on the first day of another major vaccination effort. Pakistan is on the brink of eliminating polio, with only four cases of it so far this year. Afghanistan is having more of a problem (because of more widespread Taliban violence) and has had 14 cases of polio so far this year. The only other nation on the planet with cases of polio is Nigeria and there the vaccination efforts are sharply reducing the number of cases. Vaccination teams are particularly vulnerable because they must visit the most remote and lawless areas to deliver the vaccination to vulnerable children. Parents tend to favor the vaccination and given the proliferation of cell phone service it is rather easy to call in or text a tip about some threat to the vaccination effort. In the last decade the main obstacle has been Islamic terror groups who ban polio vaccinations and attack anyone trying to deliver the vaccine to children. Islamic terrorists in general tend to believe the vaccination teams are spying for the government and that the vaccinations are a plot to sterilize or kill Moslems. In Pakistan and Afghanistan there are still religious problems with vaccination. The Afghan Taliban now openly support the vaccination program but there still some rural areas where local Moslem clerics or teachers continue to denounce the vaccinations. There is a similar situation in Pakistan, where some fringe Islamic groups still try and kill members of the vaccination teams. Despite the death threats there was another major effort in 2017 to vaccinate vulnerable Afghan and Pakistani children against polio. In 2016 there were 20 cases of polio in Pakistan and 13 in Afghanistan. There were four in Nigeria, a country that is expected to be free of polio this year or next. Despite this continued resistance polio cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to decline. For Afghanistan there were fewer cases in 2017 and 2016. In Pakistan the situation is similar with about the same number of cases in 2017. Nevertheless the global vaccination effort has worked. In the 1980s, when the polio elimination effort began there were 350,000 cases in 125 countries. For the last several years there have been fewer than a hundred cases worldwide. After a few years of no reported cases polio will gone, as happened with smallpox in the 1970s.
In Pakistan a journalist for the Dawn newspaper is accused of treason for interviewing a former prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) who admitted that the 2008 Islamic terror attacks on India in Mumbai were the work of a Pakistan based Islamic terrorist group that has long, and still does, receive support and sanctuary by the Pakistani military. While most of the world accepts this as true the Pakistani military wants to discourage Pakistanis from publishing this sort of thing. Treason is a capital offense.
September 22, 2018: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) an army patrol clashed with a group of Islamic terrorists crossing the border from Afghanistan. Seven soldiers and nine of the intruders (apparently Pakistani Taliban) were killed during the battle. The surviving Islamic terrorists fled back into Afghanistan.
September 21, 2018: India cancelled a high level meeting with Pakistani officials because of the uproar in India over continued Pakistani violence on the border and in Kashmir. Imran Kahn, the new Pakistani prime minister, suspected of being under the control of the Pakistani military has quickly shown that is true. Kahn has come out and praised the Pakistani military not matter what the generals do and that includes imposing media censorship and making public criticism of the military a punishable (legally or otherwise) offense. India has been subjected to these tactics for decades and there is little patience left for Pakistan to turn itself around. That means India is more inclined to meet force with force and, for example, carry out more attacks at Islamic terrorists targets inside Pakistan. While that could mean nuclear war, India is apparently not dissuaded by that anymore.
September 18, 2018: Due to the worsening economy in Iran (made worse by the American revival of sanctions in March) over 15 percent of the three million Afghan refugees still in eastern Iran have returned to Afghanistan so far this year. Nearly all of these Afghans are Shia who feared returning as long as the Afghan Taliban (and ISIL) were active in Afghanistan. These two groups, and Sunni Islamic terror groups in general, consider Shia heretics and targets them for death on a regular basis. But Iran has made returning to Afghanistan easier by increasing its support for the Afghan Taliban. This gesture is also a favor to Pakistan, which Iran is trying to maintain good relations with (as Pakistan is also an ally of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is the only Moslem nation with nukes).
September 17, 2018: In Bangladesh police commanders are complaining that NGOs (non-government organizations) and the UN are discouraging Rohingya refugees from returning to Burma. That’s not hard to do but the accusations are disputed by the UN and NGOs, What is undisputed is that the NGOs do often have their own foreign policy and a tendency to try and work the mass media to persuade or coerce governments to work for them. This has led Bangladesh to impose restrictions on what the 41 NGOs operating in the Rohingya refugee camps.
September 12, 2018: In northwest Pakistan (South Waziristan) a truck from Pakistan was seized by Afghan police as it crossed into Paktika province. The truck from Pakistan carrying over half a ton of ammonium nitrate (used for explosives). Two Haqqani Network members were arrested and it was discovered that the ammonium nitrate came from a Haqqani base across the border in Pakistan (South Waziristan). This shipment of ammonium nitrate was headed for Ghazni province where Islamic terrorists were planning another series of attacks.
Bangladesh again proclaimed that it would never assimilate the Burmese Rohingya refugees, even those the Rohingya are ethnically Bengali and share the same religion as Bangladeshis. Most of the Burmese Rohingya comes from families that have been in Burma for over a century and most speak Burmese and consider themselves Burmese. There has also been some intermarriage with ethnic Burmese (who are East Asian, like most Chinese rather than Indo-European as most Bangladeshis are) which means many Burmese Rohingya no longer look like Bengalis.
September 6, 2018: China has agreed to establish multiple hotlines along their mutual border and also between the defense ministries of both nations. This revives previous efforts to establish a hotline. In 2016 China and India have worked out and agreed to details of a hotline for commanders on both sides of the LAC (Line of Actual Control). Also known as the MacCartney-MacDonald Line the LAC is the unofficial border between India and China. The LAC is 4,057 kilometers long and is found in the Indian States of Ladakh, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal, and Arunachal. On the Chinese side it is mostly Tibet. China claims much territory that is now considered part of India. There have been hundreds of armed confrontations over the last few years as one side or the other accuses “foreign troops” of crossing the LAC. The agreement fell apart when India went ahead, despite Chinese protests, and expanded its military ties with the United States. China has a history of expecting nations to “do China an extra favor” if they want a hotline arrangement. In the case of South Korea the hotline agreement did not go into effect until after South Korea cut some of its military ties with Taiwan. A hotline is nothing new for China. There has been one with North Korea since the 1950s. This enabled senior Chinese military leaders to pick up a phone and call their North Korean counterparts to quickly deal with any mutual problems. In 2008 China and the United States approved an agreement for a communications hotline followed in 2011 by a similar agreement between China and South Korea. A hotline like this is quicker and more accurate than waiting for the usual diplomatic channels to be used (and having to depend on the mass media in the meantime.)
September 4, 2018: The recent death of Jalaluddin Haqqani, 79 year old founder of the Haqqani Network, was revealed by the Afghan Taliban. Jalaluddin Haqqani was thought to have died in 2o14 but that was actually when he became so disabled that he turned over control of the network to his successor (Siraj Haqqani). This transition was smooth and Siraj Haqqani continued to cooperate with the Taliban and maintain subservience to ISI (Pakistani military intelligence). Because Jalaluddin Haqqani helped Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders escape Afghanistan in 2001 there has always been a sense of mutual dependence. For that reason Haqqani leaders were able to help deal with the mid-2015 power struggle within the Taliban and thwart the recruiting efforts of ISIL. Given that Haqqani works for ISI, Pakistan had to approve, if not help bring about this new arrangement.
September 2, 2018: The United States told Pakistan that $300 million in military aid was suspended because continued refusal of Pakistan (specifically the military) to shut down Islamic terrorist operations inside Pakistan. The Pakistani military showed, in 2014, that it could do so against Islamic terror groups (Pakistani Taliban, ISIL) that threatened the Pakistani government. But Pakistan has refused to admit it protects Islamic terror groups, like the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network and several groups that carry out attacks in India.
August 31, 2018: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) Iranian border guards clashed with Iranian Sunni separatists who were based in Pakistan and returning to Iran to carry out an attack. Four of the separatists were killed and three wounded while survivors fled back into Pakistan. The Iranian forces suffered one wounded.