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India-Pakistan: Taliban Seek New Base Areas
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January 29, 2010: As more Indian troops and police move against armed Maoists in eastern India, they are finding a more complex and substantial rebel organization that they expected. For example, the Maoists are raising enough money through extortion (protection money from local businesses and landlords) to set up a weapons smuggling operation. They will need all the weapons they can get, and the Maoists are changing their tactics to cope with the new situation. With the arrival of more police and troops, the Maoists have increased their attacks on cell phone towers, as cell phones are more of a danger (civilians can tip off the police about Maoist activities), than a help (because the police can eavesdrop on Maoist conversations), to the communist rebels. In less stressful situations, the Maoists extort money from the cell phone companies to "protect" the cell phone towers.

India is also having problems with Maoists in neighboring Nepal, where the communist rebels there have switched from armed rebels, to being a major political party. The Nepalese Maoists are using traditional Nepalese hostility to India (which, more so than neighboring China, has dominated the small country) to gain more popular support. The Nepalese Maoists go after the extensive Indian companies operating in Nepal, to score political points, and extort protection money.

Pakistan again pressured the U.S. for Predator UAVs, and this time the Americans relented a little and offered twelve of the smaller (160 kg) Shadow 200 models. These are widely used by the U.S. Army, but are not large enough to carry 45 kg Hellfire missiles, like the one ton Predator does. The U.S. doesn't want Pakistan to have Predator/Hellfire partly to keep the technology away from China, partly to keep the systems from being used to kill tribal leaders the U.S. does not consider hostile, and because these UAVs are in big demand by American and NATO forces, who have priority.

Islamic radicals are again attacking trucks carrying NATO supplies from the Pakistani port of Karachi, into Afghanistan. These attacks have diminished now that NATO and the U.S. have additional supply routes coming in via Central Asia. If the Pakistani transport companies cannot protect NATO shipments, then the supplies are sent in via Central Asia. The Pakistani firms have lost a lot of business, and had apparently made arrangements with the Taliban, to halt attacks on the remaining Karachi-Afghanistan NATO truck traffic. The recent attacks appear to be by Islamic radicals operating against India, and perhaps looking for a share of the protection money. Islamic radical groups often encroach on each other, and are frequently openly at war with each other.

Pakistani security forces continue to clear out Taliban members in the Swat Valley and the former Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan. The police are finding that, throughout the tribal territories, the Taliban have used their muscle to infiltrate the civil service and economy. The police are arresting the more "connected" (with the Taliban) government employees, and keeping an eye on the rest. The government has dismissed dozens of civil servants who participated in pro-Taliban activities.

January 25, 2010: A large group of Taliban attacked an army checkpoint near the Afghan border (200 kilometers southwest of Peshawar). After the gun battle, at least 15 Taliban were dead, along with two soldiers. The Taliban are trying to reestablish new base areas along the Afghan border, and to do that they need control of the roads. Thus the need to chase away the police/army checkpoints. The security forces have responded by building these checkpoints with an eye towards defense. Some of them look like little forts, and all are manned by personnel who are aware of their vulnerability to attack by hostile tribesmen. Meanwhile, the Taliban are having a rough time of it. Most full time Taliban had to scatter to their villages for the Winter. There, these Taliban are more vulnerable to arrest, and often no longer getting paid. While most Taliban survived the government offensive of the last few months, the Taliban bureaucracy and infrastructure took some major damage. The Taliban has far less combat power than it did a few months ago.

January 23, 2010: In eastern India, a truck hit a Maoist mine, killing four civilians and wounding eight policemen.  In the Pakistani tribal territories, the Taliban blew up a private girls school. The Afghan Taliban are trying to get all their activists to halt the school destruction, as it has caused many people sympathetic to the Taliban, to turn against the Taliban. In an area next to South Waziristan, a suicide care bomber detonated his explosives near a police station, killing a policeman, and three civilians (including two children). This sort of thing does little for the popular support the Taliban and Islamic radicals need to take control of the country, or even parts of the tribal territories.

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