August 15, 2011: In the Pakistani tribal territories, the Taliban recently used a female suicide bomber, for only the third time. The Taliban don’t use a lot of suicide bombers, perhaps several a week, and most of the victims are civilians. This has made the Taliban very unpopular, especially because most of the bombers are teen-age boys from religious schools. This is generally seen as a perversion of Islam, especially by the parents, but those who run the schools see themselves as defenders of Islam and above criticism. Thus the primary target of Taliban terrorism is their fellow tribesmen in the tribal territories. Most of those murdered by Taliban death squads are tribal or religious leaders who will not work for the Islamic terrorists. It’s often forgotten that the Taliban are fighting a tribal civil war, in addition to all their other goals (world domination and so on).
In most of the Pakistani tribal territories, the Islamic terrorists are on the defensive. In the last month, soldiers and police have killed more than 200 of the Islamic radicals, which is why more and more of them are fleeing to North Waziristan (the last part of the tribal territories the army will not enter) and large cities (like Peshawar in the tribal territories and Karachi, the largest city in the country and the home of over two million Pushtuns). The problem here is that Pakistan is willing to fight Islamic terrorists, but not destroy them.
In Kashmir, the Pakistanis have kept the border attacks down. According to the current peace deal, there are supposed to be none. But in June, there were two incidents of Pakistani troops firing across the Line of Control (which separates Indian and Pakistani Kashmir) at their Indian counterparts. There were three in July. The Pakistani military has its own foreign policy, which is often at odds with that of the elected government. The military controls a large chunk of the economy and the government budget and wants to keep it that way. Military personnel, especially officers, live much better than average Pakistanis, and that good life will only continue as long as the military can continue to control so much of the economy. This explains why Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is constantly discussing war with India. It also accounts for the fact that the military has been fighting Islamic terror groups for a decade, but has never been able to defeat them. Until quite recently, this bizarre situation could not even be openly discussed in Pakistan (without risk of arrest or assassination). It’s still dangerous to discuss the unique economic position of the military, but such talk is getting louder. This makes the military nervous, and desperate for a solution. Desperate people who have nuclear weapons are not a good thing.
The Pakistani terrorist strategy is failing in Kashmir, where the Islamic terror groups based across the border in Pakistan have been unable to sustain operations in Indian Kashmir. Most of the rank-and-file terrorists are dead, or have deserted. Police are now catching and killing more of the terror group leaders, who must be more active (and vulnerable) trying to keep their organizations functioning. But there’s still a lot of anger and resentment among the majority Moslem population against Hindu India.
Political, ethnic and religious violence in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city continues. So far this year, nearly a thousand people have died, with thousands injured. Because some of the major players here represent key political parties, the government has been reluctant to shut down the main instigators of the violence. In 1995, when there was a similar situation, the government did ultimately shut all the major contenders down. The key to doing this was seizing illegal firearms. As long as all those illegal guns are out there, the high casualties will continue. The army is pressing the government to take action, but the government is trying to broker a political settlement. The army does not like the economic damage the Karachi violence is inflicting, but does not feel strong enough to overrule the government.
In India, the offensive against the Maoist rebels is not going well. This has prompted the governments of the states hardest hit by the rebel violence (Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand) to form a united anti-Maoist command center and coordinate their anti-Maoist operations. Meanwhile, the influx of 75,000 additional police has not increased Maoist losses, but has resulted in more dead policemen. The Maoists have lost many of their rural camps and, in general, have been forced to devote more time to security (and less to attacking the government or extorting money from businesses). As always, the government has failed to effectively address the social and economic problems in the countryside (where feudalism and corruption are rampant). These problems provide the Maoists with recruits, and support from many of the locals.
The anti-corruption movement in India is increasing the pressure on the government. Large demonstrations are more common, and the Internet has proved to be the corrupt officials’ worst nightmare. Amateur investigators use the web to publicize corruption, and this sort of pressure is forcing the government to act, or at least put on a convincing show of it.
August 14, 2011: In Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan), a bomb went off in a hotel, killing eleven and wounding over 20. There is increasing violence in this region, by everyone. A growing number of Baluchi tribesmen are turning to violence, often in response to the arrest and murder, by the secret police (ISI, the military intelligence agencies) and military, of suspected tribal rebels.
The Pakistan Taliban is actually a coalition of Islamic radical groups in the tribal territories. There are dozens of Islamic radical groups outside the tribal territories. Many are at war with each other, but all are united by demands that Islamic law (Sharia) be imposed energetically throughout the country in order to eliminate the corruption and bad government that makes Pakistan so poor and violent. Ignored is the fact that this has never worked anywhere. At best, you’ll have a poorly run nation where the corrupt officials appear pious. That’s been going on for decades in neighboring Iran, but Pakistani Islamic radicals ignore that and insist it will be different in Pakistan.
August 13, 2011: In Lahore, Pakistan, an American aid official was kidnapped by a well-organized gang. This is believed to be a criminal, not terrorist, operation. But no request for ransom has been announced yet (but one may have been made and kept secret.)
August 11, 2011: China launched a ten ton Pakistani communications satellite. China provides some of the cheapest satellite launch services on the planet. The Pakistani satellite is expected to last for 15 years, and was built in China.
August 9, 2011: For the third time this month, an American UAV fired missiles at Islamic terrorists in North Waziristan. The targets were members of the Haqqani Network, a decades old outfit run by Afghans who fled Afghanistan in the 1980s. Haqqani has been a heavily subsidized creature of Pakistani intelligence (ISI) ever since then. The Taliban and al Qaeda have been much reduced in the last decade, Haqqani is now the major cause of terrorist violence in Afghanistan. The U.S. considers the Haqqani Network to be the main source of terrorist violence in Afghanistan, and has concentrated thousands of troops to use against Haqqani operatives who cross the border. So now Haqqani is the main target for UAV attacks. So far this year, there have been 46 UAV attacks, which is less than half the rate of last year (when 117 attacks were made.) While Haqqani is the main target, the U.S. missiles have also hit Islamic terror groups that specialize in attacks inside India. This may have something to do with Islamic terror camps being reopened in Pakistani Kashmir. These camps were closed several years ago as part of a peace deal between India and Pakistan. But the Islamic radical groups were allowed to move to the nearby tribal territories. Pakistan denies all of this, despite growing evidence (from satellite photos and the interrogation of captured terrorists) to the contrary.