During Imran Khan’s recent visit to the United States, the Pakistani prime minister admitted that for the last fifteen years his country had lied about the presence of over 30,000 armed men in Pakistan and Kashmir working for 40 Islamic terror groups. That deception was one of the reasons the U.S. recently cut off all aid to Pakistan. The prime minister also pointed out that Pakistan was now shutting down the Islamic charities, religious schools and other groups that supported Islamic terrorists.
Kahn is visiting the U.S. because Pakistan is broke, increasingly unable to borrow money and dominated by its military, whose Islamic terrorist support and corruption are part of the problem. Kahn needs cash but he was only willing, or able, to admit part of what is actually going on back home. Kahn did not admit that Pakistan created the Pakistani Taliban. That group took control of most of Afghanistan in the late 1990s and granted al Qaeda sanctuary. Kahn insists that Pakistan had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks when, in fact, the Pakistani military support for the Taliban was very much a factor. Kahn also did not admit that his military is still making the key decisions and that recent elections were heavily influenced by the military.
Kahn would not discuss the fact that he himself is considered under the control of the military. The American president responded to this with public praise, but no resumption of aid.
Many in Pakistan considered the Kahn visit a success but anyone who pays attention to how the American president negotiates realizes that this president is generous with praise but disturbingly consistent and decisive when it comes to core issues. In this case, the core issue is that Pakistan is controlled by its military which, in turn, wants the Afghan Taliban to have more power in Afghanistan and for that to happen, foreign troops, especially the Americans, have to be gone. Kahn came to America desperate and left with no assurances of financial relief.
Back in Pakistan pledges to cease further involvement with Afghan “internal conflicts” are not well received by the victims. Iranians, Indians and Afghans generally agree that Pakistan has no interest in abandoning its use of certain Islamic terror groups (like the Taliban) to put pressure on neighbors. This is considered a problem for everyone, especially the Afghans. Worse, few people in the region (especially Afghans and Iranians) expect the Taliban to agree to a ban on Taliban controlled Afghanistan again becoming a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists. Many Afghans are wondering why the Americans are even negotiating with the Taliban, who have long demonstrated that they cannot be trusted. Iranians are particularly wary of this as they see the Taliban as inherently anti-Iranian. Iran also has issues with the Afghan drug gangs, who continue to produce, with Pakistani cooperation, all that heroin, opium and hashish. Much of it gets out of Afghanistan via Iran and that has turned the Iran/Afghan border into an increasingly bloody battle zone.
The U.S. now considers Pakistan a problem in the war against terrorism rather than a reliable partner. India and Afghanistan share that view as do a growing number of UN members.
While the American peace talks with the Taliban proceed, the Taliban demonstrate their hostility towards democracy by launching numerous attacks on Afghans (and foreigners) preparing for the September 28 presidential election. The Qatar negotiators now expect to have a “roadmap” by September 1st but this all appears to be more wishful political theater. The most powerful participant in the Afghan violence, Pakistan, is not directly involved in the Qatar talks. Yet Pakistan has to sign off on any final deal for the agreement to have any chance of success.
Most Afghans hate Pakistan, mainly because of the decades of Pakistani troublemaking in Afghanistan. The Afghans at the peace talks are mainly Pushtuns (40 percent of Afghans) representing a minority of Pushtuns who support the drug trade and their Taliban “security associates” (hired guns). The drug gangs and the Afghan Taliban are seen as the work of Pakistan.
Not represented at the Afghan peace talks is the Northern Alliance. This is the Afghan majority, a coalition of non-Pushtuin groups that dominate the north and represent the Afghans who will fight the drug gangs and Taliban and have done so, successfully, in the past. To understand this you must understand why the north still honors
the memory of Ahmad Shah Masud. Also known as "Lion of Panjshir", he was a brilliant military leader who led the fight against the Russians in the 1980s and led the united northern forces against the Taliban in 1990s. Portraits and posters of him are common in Afghanistan, especially in the north. He was a Tadjik who was feared and hated by the Taliban. Masud was assassinated by al Qaeda suicide bombers posing as a foreign news crew (the explosives were hidden in the video camera) on September 9, 2001. This killing was done for the Taliban, which had been unable to conquer all of Afghanistan (especially the north) because of the military and political leadership of Mesud. The organization Medud led, the Northern Alliance, still exists and represents the interests of the non-Pushtun majority in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance is no longer a military coalition or even much of a political one. It is more the continued potential for the Northern Alliance to once again become an armed force opposing Pushtun tyranny (especially Pakistan supported Pushtuns). Al Qaeda once more has sanctuaries in Taliban controlled territory in southern Afghanistan. History frequently repeats itself in Afghanistan.
When the Americans intervened in October 2001, their cash and air support enabled the Northern Alliance to defeat the Taliban by December. This was humiliating for Pakistan and the Taliban. Both made plans to avoid a repeat. Northern Alliance and American military and political leaders realize that as soon as there is another Islamic terror attack in the West, traced back to an Afghan based group, it will be October 2001 all over again. Why should that be such a certainty? Because Islamic terror groups do not agree with one another and never maintain alliances. There has been ample evidence of that during the last two decades, not to mention the last thousand years of Moslem history. Thinking it will be different this time, because enough negotiators are willing to believe anything to get the deal done, will not work.
Some factions in Pakistan (mainly the military) think that this deal would give them enough power to actually control what goes on in Afghanistan. The reality is that the Pakistani generals are losing support and political power in Pakistan. China, Pakistan’s major trading partner, lender and military ally has turned on the Pakistani generals, at least the ones who depend so much on Islamic terror groups to gain victories in Afghanistan and India.
The Pakistani military continues to expend a lot of effort (and ammo and lives of its soldiers and Islamic terrorists) to turn Kashmir into a major Islamic terrorist war zone. The Pakistani efforts have made life miserable for the people living in Indian Kashmir but despite those efforts violence in Kashmir is still 70 percent lower than it was a decade ago. While Pakistani efforts can get some of the Kashmiri teenagers eager for more violence, most adult Kashmiris are done with all the Pakistan inspired mayhem. Kashmiris have seen two decades of Pakistani Islamic terrorism reducing once prosperous Kashmir to poverty and desolation. The Pakistani generals see that as progress and the Kashmiris know it.
July 25, 2019: In Pakistan, there were nationwide protests against the recent rigged elections that installed the army favorite, Imran Kahn, as prime minister. The security forces made numerous arrests of those taking part in unauthorized (by the military) public gatherings.
July 22, 2019: The Pakistani prime minister began a three-day visit to the U.S. which includes a visit with the American president, other politicians and local media. Khan’s visit comes at a bad time for Pakistan. Earlier in July Pakistan launched another major crackdown on its own media. July was also when Pakistan was found in violation of two international agreements by two different international tribunals. Those two decisions (one imposing a $5.8 billion fine on the government) brought unwanted attention on corruption and outlaw behavior inside Pakistan.
July 21, 2019: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province), a coordinated Pakistani Taliban attack began when gunmen on motorcycles fired on police, killing two and wounding several others. As the wounded arrived at a local hospital a female suicide bomber attacked, killing four police and three civilians.
July 18, 2019: Pakistan agreed to abide by a decision of the International Court of Justice which, yesterday, agreed with India that Pakistan had violated international law (the 1963 Vienna Convention) in the way it treated Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer. Pakistan accused Jadhav, who left the navy in 2001 and founded a business in Iran, of still being in the navy and operating as an intelligence agent based on Iran. Pakistan alleged that Jadhav operated an intelligence operation in southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) and provided support for Baluchi separatists who continue to attack Pakistani security forces. Pakistan has long claimed, without much in the way of proof, that India was supporting violence inside Pakistan. India accused Pakistan of kidnapping Jadhav from Iran in 2016 and bringing him to Baluchistan where he was arrested and accused of espionage and terrorism. A Pakistani court found Jadhav guilty in 2017 and sentenced him to death. The execution has not been carried out yet. The international court ruled that Pakistan violated international agreements that give foreigners accused of crimes “consular access” to someone from their embassy. Pakistan conducted the prosecution and trial of Jadhav with what appeared to be fabricated evidence. Even many Pakistanis doubted the credibility of the case. The fact that Pakistan refused Jadhav access to any Indian (or non-Pakistani) officials was, to India and many other foreign observers of Pakistani behavior in Baluchistan, another Pakistani effort to blame India for the growing separatist violence in Baluchistan. Iran agreed with India that the Pakistani case seemed contrived and the international court agreed. Of the 16 judges hearing the case, 15 ruled against Pakistani. The one dissenting opinion came from a former Pakistani chief justice. The international court is composed of senior judges from many countries.
July 17, 2019: Pakistan again arrested known Islamic terrorist leader Hafiz Saeed. This was described as a goodwill gesture towards the Americans. The arrest of Saeed was mainly about helping Pakistan stay off an international blacklist of countries that tolerate fundraising for Islamic terrorists. Saeed is very much involved with that. Earlier Saeed and eleven of his Islamic terrorist associates had been accused of illegally fundraising and money laundering in support of terrorist operations. Just because of those charges and the Saeed arrest Pakistan is unlikely to stay off the blacklist or get U.S. aid restored. That’s because Pakistan has arrested Hafiz Saeed before when the military did not have such a high degree of control over the elected government. Imran Khan was recently elected with the backing of the military and since then has shown himself to be very sensitive to whatever the military needs. Back in 2017, the last time Saeed was under arrest in Pakistan, the army got him released. This caused a public uproar and at the end of 2017, the head of the Pakistani military (army general Qamar Bajwa) spoke before parliament to brief the legislators on the state of Pakistani military security and the military efforts against Islamic terrorism and other enemies of Pakistan. General Bajwa even took some questions, which men in his position rarely do. He said he wanted to make peace with India but when asked about army support for Islamic terror groups like Lashkar i Taiba to turn themselves into political parties he said it was legal and the army would not interfere. He also added that while the army did not support Islamic terror attacks on India, men like Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Lashkar i Taiba, do and the army has no control over that. General Bajwa was indirectly telling parliament to not interfere. And it wasn’t just about reusing to help clear the roads. It was army influence and pressure that, a month earlier, got Hafiz Saeed freed from house arrest. This was a very unpopular decision inside Pakistan and around the world. Saeed is a known and quite notorious Islamic terrorist but since he works for the Pakistani military he is protected. Up to a point. In 2012 the U.S. announced a $10 million bounty for the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Saeed, who is accused of organizing the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks as well as 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. India and the United States have presented compelling evidence to implicate Saeed, but the Pakistani government refuses to prosecute. Inside Pakistan, many politicians and media outlets admit that Saeed is a major Islamic terrorist leader and the man behind the Mumbai attack and numerous other atrocities. Saeed has dared the U.S. to come and get him, which never happened. Saeed has long headed the Islamic terror group Lashkar i Taiba, which in turn was organized and long supported by the Pakistani military, mainly to organize and carry out terrorist attacks in India. Note that the reward offer is only good if Saeed is delivered alive. That is a useful condition and justifies the plan to turn its favorite Islamic terror groups (mainly the ones that attack India and do so because of Kashmir) into political parties to give these groups and their leaders even more protection from domestic or foreign interference. The major fear the Pakistani generals have is that the Americans will, as they did with bin Laden, apply “dead or alive” conditions to the reward. So far the Pakistani military has been able to protect Saeed although he has not been an international criminal for as long as bin Laden was before he was taken down.
July 15, 2019: Pakistan lifted all flight restrictions on its airspace, which blocked Indian airliners from passing over Pakistan. These restrictions had been in place since February. Back in April Pakistan reopened one of the 11 air route Indian air routes use to reach Afghanistan, Iran and points west.
Airlines serving Afghanistan has been demanding that Afghanistan do something about the continued Pakistani ban on anyone using their air space. It was hoped that Pakistan was planning to gradually reopen these routes but that was not the case. These flight bans have cost Afghanistan, airlines and passengers over $20 million. India lost over four times that. The airspace closure are the result of air battles in Kashmir between Pakistan and India in late February. That has been costing Afghanistan a lot of money and costing people flying to or from Afghanistan a lot more cash and time as well. Afghanistan gets a $500 fee for every commercial aircraft that passes through Afghan air space and in a normal month there were over 400 such flights a day. But because of the Pakistani flight restrictions, the Afghan international air overflights are down to 20-30 a day. Flying from Afghanistan to India became more difficult. For the first time Iran allowed Afghan transports to reach India via Iranian air space (to the Indian Ocean and then east to India.) This took a lot longer (and was more expensive in terms of fuel and other operating expenses). Via Pakistan, the flights take 90 minutes. Via Iran, the same flights take 300 minutes. Thus passengers had to pay $300 to fly to India versus the usual rate of $160. The air space closures have no end date because Pakistan called the air space closure indefinite, at least until the Pakistani government changes that.
The World Bank decided against Pakistan in a dispute between Tethyan Copper, an Australian-Chile-Canadian joint venture that had a contract with Pakistan to explore for copper and gold deposits in Baluchistan and, if found, could establish and run a mining operation. Tethyan Copper spent over $500 million to find and verify the long-suspected ore deposits. Then in 2011 Pakistan refused to allow Tethyan Copper to recover their investment and build the mines. In 2013 a Pakistani court upheld this decision and Tethyan Copper appealed to the World Bank. After much investigation and deliberation, the World Bank found Pakistan at fault and ordered Pakistan to pay Tethyan Copper $5.8 billion in compensation. Failure to pay the bill, or negotiate a mutually agreeable compromise payment, means Pakistan is cut off from the World Bank. Worse, Pakistan is labeled as a high-risk place for foreign investors. For the Pakistani military, this World Bank ruling is a disaster because it was the military that aborted the agreement, claiming the location of the mining operations (which was always known) was too close to the Iranian and Afghan borders and this a high-security area. Meanwhile, the military was seeking to bring in Chinese investors to build the mine and share the profits. This was in direct violation of an investment treaty Pakistan had with Australia (where Tethyan Copper was incorporated). The Pakistani refusal to honor its 2006 agreement was, according to the World Bank, a violation of international law and a major act of fraud. Because of the court decision, Tethyan Copper can seize any Pakistani assets outside Pakistan to settle the fine. The military is trying to keep its role in this secret. That is possible because of the power the military has over the media. Put simply, any local media that criticizes the military risks being put out of business and key personnel arrested or murdered.
July 12, 2019: A year ago, after two months of negotiations on the details, Pakistan agreed to buy 30 ATAK (T129) helicopter gunships from Turkey. That deal is being held up because of disagreements between the U.S. and Turkey. In short, the U.S. has refused to approve the export license for the CTS800 engines that power the ATAK gunships. While substitute engines can be obtained from France, Poland or a few other countries, modifying the ATAK to handle a similar, but not identical, engine would delay getting the ATAK gunships operational. The helicopters, minus the engines, have already been delivered to Pakistan.
The T129 is a license built version of the Italian A-129. The Pakistan purchase is partly driven by the 2018 Turkish purchase of 52 Pakistani MFI-395 Super Mushshak training aircraft. This was the largest export order to date for Pakistani built aircraft. Pakistan will pay about $1.5 billion for the T129s in a deal that will include training, spare parts and technical support.
July 11, 2019: The Indian Army has officially placed its emergency order for 240 Israeli Spike MR ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) and twelve launchers. Back in April, the army used its new “emergency purchase” authority to obtain these missiles but the paperwork still had to make its way through the bureaucracy. The army has long sought these missiles but the usual procurement process failed. Back in late 2017 political pressure caused India to cancel a half-billion dollar deal worked out in 2016 for an Israel firm to set up a factory and team with an Indian firm to produce Spike ATGMs. The army has been warning for over a decade that without a new ATGM India would be at a serious disadvantage. But the procurement bureaucracy and DRDO (the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization) said it could develop and build the comparable “Nag” ATGM in four years. That would be a miracle but DRDO knows how to stage “successful” but meaningless tests of these new weapons while never actually delivering anything the military wants.
No one in the military believed the DRDO about Nag. This was not about what DRDO could do but about the incompetence and corruption that has characterized DRDO for decades. DRDO may not be of much use for the military but for Indian politicians it is a vital part of getting elected and staying in power. DRDO provides jobs and cash for that. Meanwhile Israel remains a major military supplier for India. Since 2000 Israel provided India help dealing with Islamic terrorists that Pakistan began using aggressively against India in the 1990s. India noted that Israel was a major supplier of military equipment worldwide and was especially good when it came to border security and dealing with Islamic terrorism. The alliance between Israel and India has grown stronger since 2001 and now India is quite open about it. There are more and more signs of shifts in long-established alliances involving Israel.
July 9, 2019: The Burmese Navy received the first batch of Indian Shyena lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes. Burma ordered 36 of these in 2017. Shyena was developed (since the 1990s) by DRDO and entered Indian service in 2012. These torpedoes are built in India but so far only about fifty have been delivered to customers (India and Burma). These torpedoes are mainly used against submarines and most often launched from helicopters or fixed-wing anti-submarine aircraft. Indian designed weapons do not have a good reputation and most Indian export sales are more for diplomatic than for military reasons.
July 8, 2019: In Pakistan, three TV networks were taken off the air for broadcasting, live and unedited, the news conference of an opposition politician. The three networks were soon back on the air once the assured PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) that there be no more violations of unofficial rules governing what can be published and what must be approved by PEMRA first.
July 5, 2019: In northwest India (Kashmir), Pakistani troops opened fire again across the LoC
(Line of Control), wounding two soldiers. Indian forces returned fire.
India reports that there have been over 1,200 Pakistani border (and ceasefire) violations in the northwest (Kashmir) so far this year. This is part of a trend because these ceasefire violations had doubled in 2018 (c0mpared to 2017) and were the highest in the last ten years and are continuing to increase in 2019. The 2018 Pakistani violence on the LoC that serves as the border left 38 Kashmiri civilians and 257 Islamic terrorists (infiltrators from Pakistan) dead as a result of 614 incidents. Most of the violence did not involve casualties. On the LoC there were 2,140 ceasefire violations on the LoC in 2018, up from 971 in 2017 and 449 in 2016. The 2018 violations led to 30 Indian civilians killed along with 20 military personnel. Pakistan has urged young Kashmiri Moslems to carry out violent (often just throwing rocks) attacks against Indian security forces in Kashmir. There were 664 of these attacks in 2018 compared to 342 in 2017 and 222 in 2014. So far this year, and for most of the last two years, the violence in Kashmir has caused the most terrorism related deaths in India.
June 30, 2019:
Pakistan announced that the starting July 1st
Torkham, the main border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be open 24 hours a day. Previously traffic was, at most, only allowed from dawn to dusk. This was not sufficient for peak days, which occur several times a year, and it would take several days of waiting for trucks before they could get through. That is no longer acceptable. This is a major change for Pakistan which has regularly limited use of the main border crossings for political reasons. The difference now is competition. For over a year the new road access to the outside world, via Iran, has been open for business and business is booming. India and Iran built a new port in Iran near the Pakistan border and that port is open to goods going to or coming from India. Pakistan had long banned India from using Pakistani land crossings to Afghanistan. In addition to the new Iran connection (which is also getting a railroad line) road and rail connections with Central Asia via northern neighbors are also under construction. Meanwhile, Torkham still gets lots of traffic, with thousands of people and vehicles pass through each day. On the Pakistani side is the Khyber Pass which has always been the easiest way to get from northern Afghanistan to the lowlands (most of Pakistan and all of India) beyond. But traffic is declining and now Pakistan has to make Torkham more customer-friendly for Afghans in order to hold on to as much business as they can.