India-Pakistan: Tribes Gone Wild

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July 16, 2007: In Pakistan, nearly a hundred people have been killed by terrorist attacks in the tribal areas over the last few days. The renewed violence is in response to the government crackdown on rebellious religious extremists in the capital. Meanwhile, the U.S. has doubled the reward for the capture of Osama bin Laden, to $50 million. This set off rumors that the increase was in response to tribal chiefs who were willing to flip on bin Laden, but only if the payday were large enough. The U.S. can further sweeten the pot by arranging for much of the $750 million in economic aid, pledged for the tribal areas over the next ten years, to go to certain chiefs. A major problem with the tribal areas, and their four million poor and uneducated Pushtun tribals, is corruption and lack of government. Tribal strongmen monopolize power, and most wealth. That includes government and foreign economic aid. This has always been a problem, when efforts were made to improve infrastructure or economic opportunities in the area. But it works in your favor if you are trying to bribe some of the tribal strongmen.

July 15, 2007: In Pakistan, two suicide bomb attacks killed 70 and wounded over a hundred in the tribal areas. One attack was on a military convoy, the other on a police recruiting center.

July 14, 2007: The army has begun moving troops around the tribal areas. One brigade has been moved towards the town of Tank, long a stronghold of Islamic militants. In the tribal areas, the pro-Taliban tribes renounced the ceasefire deal with the government, and declared war on the government. Suicide bombers attacked a military convoy, killing 24. Suicide bombers, and their bombs, used in Afghanistan, mostly come from terrorist bases in Pakistan. Now it appears that these weapons will be used against Pakistani police and troops. While the tribal areas have never known any sustained rule by outsiders, the tribal areas have been conquered in the past, many times. The trouble is, the area is so poor, it simply doesn't pay to maintain soldiers and police necessary to maintain outside rule. Until the Red Mosque siege, the government was reluctant to risk a major military operation in the tribal areas. Too many officers and troops were Islamic conservatives. But now the Islamic radicals have declared war on the government, and troop loyalty is much less of a problem. For the moment.

July 13, 2007: In Pakistan, president Musharraf ordered a crackdown on Islamic radicals. This would include the arrest of leaders and confiscating weapons (especially bomb making materials). There were calls, by Moslem clergy, for massive demonstrations against the government. The turnout was, nationwide, a few hundred thousand, and peaceful. The violence and speed with which the Red Mosque defenders were defeated has made an impression.

July 12, 2007: Islamic radicals are calling for rebellion against the Pakistani government. That's a big mistake, because when you come right down to it, the Islamic radicals are a minority. A loud and armed minority, but far outnumbered in terms of people and weapons. The majority of Pakistanis have long been annoyed by the violence and terror generated by less than ten percent of the population (the tribals and Islamic militants). Most Pakistanis don't want war, but if the tribal religious fanatics insist...

July 11, 2007: The storming of the Red Mosque complex in Pakistan's capital, forced the government to crack down on the 17,000 other religious schools in the country, most associated with a mosque. These madrasses average about a hundred students each. The Red Mosque was one of the larger ones, with several thousand students. The Red Mosque was also unique because it was in an urban area, a large city and the national capital at that. Overall, madrasses only reach about ten percent of the school age population, and that includes those who attend a mosque school just for religious instruction. Not all madrasses teach hatred for non-Moslems and the need for holy war against unbelievers. But enough of them, at least a few hundred, do. These schools, particularly in the tribal areas, produce thousands of terrorist recruits each year. Not all of these kids turn into sectarian killers, but enough of them do to create situations like the siege of the Red Mosque.

The final death toll for the Red Mosque in Pakistan was 102, all but eleven of them defenders. About half the dead were kids, mostly teenagers. Several dozen were killed by suicide bombers. Several hundred women and children were being used as human shields, but the soldiers were able to get nearly all of these out of the complex safely during the initial stages of the assault. The government has released no information on the identity of foreign fighters found in the Red Mosque. Apparently there were some high ranking al Qaeda operatives trapped in the Red Mosque.

In eastern India, a major battle with Maoists left over fifty dead (half rebels, half police), during a police search for a Maoist camp. Over several days of searching, the camp was found, and the Maoists resisted with automatic weapons and mortars.

 

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