Counter-Terrorism: Bitter Pills In Kashmir


July 23, 2009: For the last three months, Pakistan has been conducting a military offensive against the Pakistani Taliban. The Taliban are losing, and the government is determined to keep at it until the Taliban is crushed. Pakistani commanders believe that may take until the end of the year. For the last four years, Pakistan has also been fighting al Qaeda, and its Pakistani allies. The terrorist attacks by these outfits resulted, as is usually the case, in more dead civilians than police or military casualties. This turned the population against the terrorists. The Taliban took a little longer to make themselves hated, but managed to accomplish that this year, as they openly terrorized civilians who were not considered "Islamic" enough.

But there is one group of terrorist organizations that has so far been untouched. These are the groups based in Pakistani Kashmir. In 1947, it was Pushtun tribesmen who invaded Kashmir and seized control of that portion of Kashmir that remains under Pakistani control. But the tribesmen had help from the Pakistani army and army intelligence, which still has, so to speak, a veto power over Islamic radicals in Pakistani Kashmir. There are terrorist training camps in Pakistani Kashmir, but not as many as were in Afghanistan. In fact, Kashmiri militants often sent some of their recruits for training in Afghan camps during the late 1990s. As a result of the working relationships established with al Qaeda during those visits, there probably are a lot of al Qaeda and Taliban personnel in Pakistani Kashmir. American Special Forces and CIA personnel are not allowed to roam freely in Pakistani Kashmir as they are in the rest of northern Pakistan. And the al Qaeda and Taliban have noted that these armed Americans, and the large rewards they offer, are making northern Pakistan a dangerous place for Taliban, and especially al Qaeda, members. So some of these terrorists have moved to Pakistani Kashmir to avoid some local chief deciding that the American rewards are too generous to pass up.

Taking the rest of Kashmir from India remains a popular goal in Pakistan. But now the Kashmiri terrorists have joined with the Taliban in fighting the Pakistani government. The Kashmiri terrorist groups (many of them officially outlawed, but still in business, at least in Pakistani Kashmir) deny taking sides, apparently aware that they could lose a lot of their popular support if they admitted working with al Qaeda and the Taliban. Many Pakistanis see through this, but the Kashmir terrorists remain national heroes. Perhaps not for long, as more and more suicide bombing attacks have been traced back to the Kashmiri groups, and it's only a matter of time before the Pakistani media decides that defending these terrorists is as unprofitable as it was earlier, when they praised the Taliban and al Qaeda. These chickens too, are coming home, to try and kill you.

Apparently in preparation for that, India and Pakistan have agreed to put aside the terrorism issue, in order to continue their peace negotiations. The Indians appear confident that Pakistan will soon be willing to move against the  terrorist camps in the hills and forests of northern Kashmir. Bangladesh, the other major Moslem state in the region, is already active against the Kashmiri terrorists, who have been in Bangladesh for over a decade. But, like terrorists everywhere, these Pakistani terrorists have worn out their welcome. Destroying the Kashmiri terrorists will be painful for Pakistan, because it will mean giving up on using force (terrorism) to conquer southern Kashmir. That use of terrorism angered the Kashmiris, and made India more determined to hang on to its portion of Kashmir. The Kashmiri terrorists have now turned on the state that created and nurtured them, and that is the most bitter pill of all.



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