February 16, 2011: While the U.S. continues to pressure Pakistan to move troops into Taliban base area of North Waziristan, there are still lots of Islamic terrorist organizations operating elsewhere along the Afghan border. There have been some recent operations in the Mohmand Agency (north of Waziristan, on the other side of the Khyber Pass). Many terrorists persist in operating outside the North Waziristan safe-haven because they have family or tribal ties elsewhere, or such links across the border in Afghanistan.
Pakistan believes it is winning its war against Islamic terrorists. Terror attacks in Pakistan were down 20 percent last year, after rising 48 percent in 2009 and 43 percent in 2008. But despite the decline, there is still a lot of violence, especially in the tribal territories. There, roadside bombs are common, and the use of suicide bombs are a constant threat to government installations. Worse, more attacks are taking place outside the tribal territories, and in the major cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. For example, the once prosperous and peaceful Swat Valley (right outside the tribal territories) is still the scene of gun battles with Taliban. In the last week, about three dozen Taliban were killed, often at police checkpoints.
Pakistan is holding an American diplomat (despite diplomatic immunity that forbids such actions) and accusing him of murder. The diplomat, Raymond Davis, was attacked by two Pakistanis, and he shot the men dead. Another Pakistani was killed by an American embassy car rushing to rescue Davis. It is believed that the two dead men were Pakistani intelligence agents keeping an eye on Davis, who was working on intelligence issues for the embassy. Davis had spent years in the U.S. Army Special Forces, and was typical of the American intelligence operatives working in Pakistan under diplomatic cover (an ancient technique). Diplomats are, after all, primarily spies, who can do their work openly.
The rabidly anti-American Pakistani mass media got hold of the story and has forced the government to violate international law and hold Davis. The Taliban jumped in and demanded that the diplomat be prosecuted. The United States threatened to cut aid to Pakistan if Davis was not released. The problem here is that Pakistan may be underestimating how angry Americans are about attacks on their diplomats (especially after what happened in Iran in 1979.) Pakistan has lost American aid before because of bad (by U.S. standards) behavior, and it can happen again. Many Pakistanis believe that China will offer to replace lost American aid, although China has been vague about exactly what it would do, and Pakistanis tend to play down growing American anger at Pakistani double-dealing, lies and bad behavior in general. This is another reason why the U.S. is getting cozier with India, another victim of Pakistani abuse. Now Pakistani officials are admitting that Davis does indeed have diplomatic immunity, but have not yet released him.
Pakistani actions have to be viewed in terms of widespread beliefs. Many Pakistanis believe that if Islamic law was widely enforced, the corruption that has long crippled Pakistan would go away. There is also the popular belief that many of Pakistan's internal problems are actually caused by evil foreigners (India and the United States are the usual suspects), and not the virtuous Pakistanis. These two popular beliefs cripple Pakistan's ability to deal with their problems realistically.
The U.S. is often proceeding after Pakistan based terrorist groups without any assistance from Pakistan. This is especially true when it comes to efforts to hurt Taliban and al Qaeda fund raising worldwide. The U.S. identifies and bans those involved in raising or moving money for terrorists, especially if the cash is going in or out of Pakistan. The U.S. has enormous control over the international banking system, and is increasingly using it to interfere with terrorist fund raising.
Pakistani efforts to clean up its intelligence agencies continue to have limited success. For example, IB (the internal intelligence agency, the Intelligence Bureau) has recently hired 4,000 politically connected agents, to spy on political parties opposed to the current government. Many of these new hires used to work for IB, but had been fired for incompetence or incorrect political beliefs. This sort of thing is common throughout the Pakistani intelligence community, where politics has always been more important than competence.
In northeastern India (Assam) a senior Maoist leader (Aditya Bora) was arrested. Bora has formerly been a prominent tribal rebel leader, but had shifted over the Maoists (as the tribal rebels are either accepting peace deals or becoming gangsters.) The is a common pattern as tribal rebels fade from the northeast (after decades of effort and not much to show for it.)
The Indian offensive against Maoist rebels is having an impact. But the effects vary depending on the competence of the local Maoist leadership, and how much the local government is addressing the economic and corruption issues that make the Maoists so popular. Dealing with rural corruption is something political parties have long avoided, not wanting to get involved with tribal politics and the vestiges of ancient feudal India. But the Maoists have forced the government to pay attention, and at least pretend to go after the problems.
February 10, 2011: In Punjab province, Pakistan, a teenage suicide bomber, disguised in a school uniform, entered a military school and killed 32 cadets doing physical exercise. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which was one of the increasing number taking place outside the tribal territories.
February 8, 2011: In Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) two natural gas pipelines were damaged by bombs, apparently by tribal rebels seeking a greater share of the natural gas revenue.
February 7, 2011:In Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, two bombs went off near police stations, wounding two people. Gangsters and the Taliban are trying to intimidate police into inactivity.