September 10, 2011: Pakistani Army commanders are debating the possibility of attacking Taliban and other Islamic terror groups in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) and especially its capital, Quetta (where the Taliban leadership have lived openly since early 2002.) The U.S. has been pressuring Pakistan to shut down terrorist havens in Baluchistan since 2002. But Pakistani intelligence (ISI) has refused to allow that. ISI has also kept U.S. interrogators from the recently captured senior Al Qaeda recruiter and attack organizer, Younis al-Mauretani. The army leadership is also at odds over what to do with ISI. Directly confronting ISI can get you killed, as the intelligence agency controls a number of highly efficient death squads. Many military officers still support Islamic radicalism, and none want to trigger a civil war within the military.
What all this spotlights is the fact that Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the main supporter of al Qaeda from the beginning. It was Pakistan, and ISI, that provided sanctuary and support for the forerunners of al Qaeda. These were Arab volunteers who came to Pakistan in the 1980s to join the jihad against the atheist Soviet (communist) occupation of Afghanistan. The Russians had entered Afghanistan in 1979 for political, not economic, reasons, and left ten years later, leaving a communist government behind. Most previous conquerors of Afghanistan had come for economic reasons and had the means and incentive to stay for long periods. But the Soviet Union was in terrible economic shape in 1979, and dissolved in 1991, which was a major reason they left in 1989. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union cut off subsidies for the pro-Russian Afghan government, and that government was overthrown. The usual ethnic and tribal factions then fought a civil war, mostly over control of the traditional capital of Afghanistan, Kabul.
Some of the Pushtun factions had been radicalized by Saudi Arabian missionaries in Pakistan during the 1980s, and were subsequently always the most numerous radicals. The Pushtuns live mostly in the south, are 40 percent of the population and are part of a Pushtun region that has two-thirds of the Pushtuns in Pakistan (where they are only 15 percent of the population). Many of the Pushtuns had always been more traditional and socially conservative. The Saudi missionaries brought with them the ultra-conservative Wahhabi form of Islam, and the most enthusiastic Afghan converts became the Taliban. It was the ISI that formally recruited (from Pushtun refugees attending Pakistan Islamic religious schools) and armed the Taliban and sent them into Afghanistan to end the civil war and take control of the country. The Taliban recruited like-minded Pushtuns in Afghanistan and proceeded to fight the other ethnic factions for control. This war was still going on when September 11, 2001 came along. The Taliban never conquered the entire country and most current Taliban terrorism is still in the Pushtun south. But from the beginning, the Taliban were supported, and heavily influenced by the Pakistani ISI. Since September 11, 2001, Pakistani support for American anti-terror efforts has turned most of the Taliban (at least the Pakistani branch) and al Qaeda against Pakistan. Yet the ISI stays in touch with the Taliban and al Qaeda, even though they are officially at war with all of these terrorists.
Al Qaeda was not created (in 1988) by ISI, but has long been sustained by the Pakistanis. While the ISI allowed al Qaeda to form in Pakistan, they would not, at first, allow the terrorist group to base itself in Pakistan. After bouncing around in the 1990s, al Qaeda was welcomed to Taliban controlled southern Afghanistan in 1996. At that point, ISI established closer relationships, and control, of al Qaeda.
ISI itself had become radicalized in the 1970s, when the army leadership decided that the cure for the corruption and bad government in Pakistan was Islamic radicalism. This did not work, but once established, Islamic radicalism is very difficult to eliminate, especially if many of the believers are in the army and running the national intelligence agency (the ISI). But many Pakistani military people did see that Islamic radicalism has become a curse, not a blessing, and resistance to the ISI has grown. This has resulted in the army agreeing to chase the Islamic radicals (Taliban, al Qaeda and several other groups) out of most of the tribal territories. North Waziristan (in the Pushtun territories along the border) and Quetta (capital of Baluchistan, home of the Baluchi tribes) remain as Islamic radical sanctuaries, but apparently not for long. The end, however, will be bloody. There are thousands of true believers in the Taliban and Pakistan-based al Qaeda. These zealots have millions of supporters in Pakistan. And all these Islamic radicals want Pakistan to become a religious dictatorship. The democrats and Islamic radicals have largely tolerated each other since the 1970s, but that tolerance is fraying.
Several Islamic terror groups have declared war on ISI in the last decade, largely because the goals of these groups and the ISI diverged. ISI sought to control and channel the Islamic killers, while the radical groups developed tactics and goals that the ISI could not condone (especially the killing of Pakistani civilians). The ISI has been able to win these battles, but not the war. The defeated Islamic terrorists have gone underground in Pakistan, giving the ISI more trouble, and increasing Pakistani opposition to the ISI. Most Pakistanis know the ISI role in creating these terror groups, and holds the intelligence organization responsible for the subsequent mayhem and slaughter. Yet the official word in Pakistan is that the ISI has had nothing to do with these Islamic terror groups, other than to keep an eye on them and help destroy them. It’s becoming more and more difficult to maintain this fiction.
Although the Pakistani Army has launched dozens of operations against Islamic radicals in the tribal territories over the last three years, and killed thousands of them, the Islamic radicals are still out there. The army battalions eventually return to their bases, while the surviving Islamic radicals return to their tribal villages, and scheme with each other to make more attacks on the military, police and Pakistani government in general. The government is seen as an alien force, which brings little benefit and a lot of problems. It has always been this way, and it gets messy when the government tries to exert control in the tribal territories.
Last year, for example, over 10,000 people died from Islamic radical violence in Pakistan. That was the result of 2,200 terrorist attacks, 630 battles between the security services and religious radicals, 135 American UAV attacks on Islamic terrorists, 69 violent border incidents with India or Afghanistan, 233 outbreaks of ethnic/political/religious violence and 214 battles between tribal militias. All this mayhem is propelled by Islamic radicalism, and more and more Pakistanis are fed up with it.
But at the same time, Pakistan still has a severe persecution complex. Anti-Pakistan conspiracies are seen everywhere. This results in some odd, to Westerners, beliefs. For example, most Pakistanis believe that the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States were not carried out by Moslems, but were staged by the United States to justify a war against Islam. Most Pakistanis believe that India is planning to conquer Pakistan, and all the stories in the Indian media that contradict the invasion fantasy are seen as part of a big conspiracy. American diplomats often complain about the difficulty of working in Pakistan and coping with all these fantasy-based beliefs. These diplomats are further dismayed when they find that that their fellow Americans back home don’t really believe that anyone could be that delusional, much less an entire nation. Yet many majority-Moslem nations have similar delusion problems.
The Indian police offensive against Maoists in eastern India is particularly hard on the rural people the Maoists and government both say they are fighting to protect. Poverty, bad government and general neglect in these rural areas have enabled the Maoists to begin with. But now the police searches and raids have disrupted economic life, and the few social services that the government, and sometimes the Maoists, delivered. Food is not getting through to many isolated communities, nor is the medical care the government, and often the Maoists, provided. Thousands of villagers have fled their homes to avoid the fighting. All this disruption helps the Maoists (with recruiting and general support) more than the government. However, a majority of the rural people are wary of the Maoists who are, after all, communist zealots intent on establishing a socialist dictatorship.
September 7, 2011: In the Indian capital (Delhi), a bomb went off near the High Court complex, killing 13 people. Pakistan based terrorists were believed responsible, and one of these groups did take credit. Within 72 hours, police had made six arrests, most of them in Kashmir. Indian intelligence has email evidence of Islamic terrorists based in India being involved, if not responsible, for the High Court attack.
Two suicide bomb attacks were carried out in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, and killed 24. Terrorists claimed the attack was in retaliation for the earlier arrest of al Qaeda leader Younis al Mauretani. The suicide bomb attack was directed against security forces that had played a role in arresting al Mauretani.
September 5, 2011: Pakistani police arrested senior Al Qaeda recruiter and attack organizer, Younis al Mauretani in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. Pakistan later revealed that U.S. intelligence had provided critical information about where al Mauretani was. This was interesting, since Pakistan had halted this kind of cooperation after the May 2nd raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
September 3, 2011: In Orissa state (eastern India) a Maoist commander surrendered. He blamed poor leadership among senior Maoists and growing hardship for Maoist fighters. He also cited family pressure.