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India-Pakistan: Taliban Turns On Terrorism
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June 23, 2009: In Pakistan, Taliban leaders are suddenly trying to distance themselves from the growing number of terrorist attacks. The Taliban, and some politicians, now insist that these atrocities have nothing to do with Islam. This is an attempt by the Taliban to recover some of their popularity. The terrorist attacks, plus the earlier atrocities (especially against women) committed by the Taliban in the tribal territories, has really turned the country against them. This, the Taliban did not expect. Some Taliban factions don't care, but the more ambitious Taliban leaders can see where this all leads, and it's not good for the Taliban.

The army is now advancing into North and South Waziristan, and, as usual, the Taliban cannot hold a position against the troops. Taking to the hills and waging a guerilla war doesn't work as well as it used to, because the army now has over 300 helicopters, and the Americans are always up there with their UAVs and photo satellites. The battles are nearly always the same, with most of the Taliban fighters wiped out, or escaping (if they have an opportunity). The Taliban depend on anti-vehicle mines and roadside bombs to inflict most of their casualties on the army. Noting how ruthless the army was in Swat, over 40,000 civilians have already fled Waziristan.

Senior al Qaeda leaders now openly admit that, if they got their hands on any of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, these would be used for attacks on the United States and the West. Al Qaeda is already much hated in Pakistan, and this announcement does little to change that. This loss of public support by Islamic groups tends to snowball, as with the ways in which the Taliban raises money. The Taliban call their extortion demands a "religious tax," but people realize that the Taliban are also involved in drug smuggling (even though the Taliban condemns drug use) and kidnapping (for ransom). For years, the Taliban were some kind of folk heroes to many Pakistanis. No more, and that's a big loss for the Taliban, perhaps a fatal one. But the Taliban must have a constant flow of cash (some estimates put it at over $100 million a year) to pay gunmen, and the support the families of those who get killed in Taliban service. Without the cash, the size of the Taliban would shrink to a few hundred diehards.

In West Bengal, India, Maoist rebels tried to slow down an army offensive by declaring a two day general strike. This was backed by Maoist threats to attack anyone who does not shut down their business, and some will comply to avoid becoming a target. In many areas, the Maoists have been seen so infrequently, that local businessmen remain open. But in the countryside, the Maoists are more popular because of the Robin Hood angle. The Maoists fight corrupt  landlords and local officials. The government has to clean that up if there is ever to be long-term peace. But the government did finally overcome opposition by main-line communist politicians, and declared the Maoists terrorists.

In Bangladesh, a two day counter-terrorist sweep led to twenty arrests, and the seizure of explosives and other bomb making material.

June 22, 2009: In Kashmir, Indian investigators have found that two Moslem women were raped, as mobs of angry locals have been insisting for weeks. Initially, the Indian police said the women had fallen in the water and drowned. But this was a cover up, and now the police investigators are closing in. Five police commanders have been suspended for trying to hide the police misconduct. Meanwhile, in the Pakistani tribal territories, a Mehsud tribal leader who had spoken out against Taliban tribal leader Baitullah Mehsud, was murdered by a friend of Baitullah Mehsud. That has apparently angered, rather than scared off, anti- Baitullah Mehsud factions within the Mehsub tribe. The army and the government have made it clear that they intend to capture or kill Taliban tribal leader Baitullah Mehsud.

June 20, 2009: Pakistani troops are moving deeper into Waziristan, heading for known locations that house Taliban leaders. There, these leaders live with their extended families. While the Taliban can get away, their families usually cannot. In those cases, the government will arrest members of the families, and hold them as hostages. This is an ancient method for putting pressure on a tribal leader you are pursuing.

June 19, 2009: The Pakistani army believes that the operation in the Swat Valley is nearly complete, and that the army will move most of its attention to Waziristan, long the homeland of the Pakistani Taliban. In Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan), another judge was murdered. This is how rebellious tribes often show their displeasure at how the judicial system has treated its members.

The UN declared all of Pakistan as unsafe for the families of UN staff. If the Islamic terrorist attacks continue, the UN will pull some of its staff out of the country, which will hamper relief operations in the tribal territories and elsewhere. The Taliban consider this to their benefit, as it will allow local Islamic charities to play a larger role.

In North Waziristan, two journalists (an American and an Afghan) escaped from their Taliban captors (by climbing over a compound wall and finding nearby Pakistani troops). The two had been seized seven months earlier in Afghanistan, outside Kabul. The pressure of the Pakistani offensive into Waziristan apparently distracted the Taliban who were guarding the two men.

June 18, 2009: In Pakistan, the army offensive in the tribal territories has caused some Taliban leaders to get on radio and television and insist that they, themselves, do not support terrorist attacks. This has split the Taliban leadership, since these "no terrorism" leaders still back the Taliban goals of establishing a religious dictatorship. Meanwhile, the Islamic groups continue to insist that their attacks are done in the name of all Taliban factions.

In South Waziristan, two or more American UAVs launched three or four Hellfire missiles at a Taliban place, killing at least ten people, five of them foreigners.

June 17, 2009: In the first five months of the year, police in Lahore, Pakistan have seized over 2,500 firearms. Less than six percent of these weapons were rifles or assault guns. Over 90 percent were pistols. You don't see a majority of men armed with AK-47s, and rifles,  until you reach the tribal territories. Lahore police also announced they had arrested a pro-Taliban terrorist for participating in the attacks on the Sri Lankan soccer team three months ago. Several other men associated with Taliban groups are also suspected, but they appear to have fled to the tribal territories.

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cwDeici       6/27/2009 1:59:57 PM
Some good reporting. Yes, it is true some of the Taliban leaders are rowing away from terrorism, though it remains to be seen how sincere they are.
 
Otherwise SP is up to its usual sense of self satisfaction and thus utter lack of quality in the Pakistani region. The Taliban as a whole is definitely not making a concerted effort to keep Waziristan free of the incursion. And they still maintain much popularity despite the rising tide of hatred towards them.
 
The leaders have simply backed off as they have chewed off more than they want to swallow, which if they try to swallow may eventually lead to what they can't.
They're playing a waiting game, perhaps next time they'll be more careful or the more impulsive elements will have been eliminated.
 
Hopefully Baitullah keeps fighting, this will damage the Taliban.
The best case scenario is that the fighting escalates and Pakistan is beaten in the mountains and sends in a real invasion force.
 
PS. I didn't read more than a few lines, frankly the quality depresses me a bit. It's like the author read background information on Pakistan but didn't go deep enough, which you have to do in one of the most complicated regions on Earth. And they're almost always optimistic regardless of the realities on the ground.
 
This looks to be a temporary victory unless Baitullah fights or the army tries to stay, in which case more damage will be done. Critical damage to the Taliban will not occur due to a lack of political will.
 
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cwDeici       6/27/2009 2:05:48 PM
And what's the utter undignified tomfoolery regarding a few hundred diehards?
It'd be several thousand diehards, at least.
 
Reliable estimates put Taliban and Allies at over a hundred thousand in Pakistan, Afghanistan not included.
 
While it is unrealistic that they will nearly completely lose their finances it is definite that the hardcore Talibani high and mid-level leadership is in the hundreds. If you include the hardcore troops its in the thousands.
 
Unlike what SP thinks Pakistan will not be an easy battle.
 
They do have local support and quickly diminishing support in the rest of the country. They do have a well-trained army that fights at the brigade level efficiently and are in fact capable of stopping two-three divisions worth of PA and allied troops.
To clear out the tribal areas Pakistan will need at least 50,000 troops and ruthless tactics.
With a 100,000 it'd still be tooth and nail with more sensible tactics, but they'd persevere and emerge victorious.
 
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cwDeici       6/27/2009 2:07:20 PM
Or they could go in with less troops and use proper counterinsurgency, that would take years or maybe decades but could go on incrementally. But that is not going to happen because Pakistan is Pakistan.
 
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cwDeici       6/27/2009 2:07:49 PM
Born from the religion of a warlord...
 
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